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BJP national president Amit Shah addresses a public meeting in Khowai, Tripura on Monday. Photo: PTI
BJP national president Amit Shah addresses a public meeting in Khowai, Tripura on Monday. Photo: PTI

Tripura elections: Unemployment key issue in Left, BJP face-off

While the CPM-led Left Front seeks a sixth consecutive term, BJP woos the youth ahead of the Tripura elections

Agartala: The issue of unemployment is emerging as a challenge to the Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPM-led Left Front’s quest for an unprecedented sixth consecutive term in Tripura.

The need to win the hearts and minds of youths and job seekers is greater as the upcoming Tripura elections is becoming a direct contest between the incumbent CPM and new challenger, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

In March 2016, nearly 18.7% of the state’s population of 3.7 million (2011 census) were unemployed, according to the state’s economic survey 2015-16. To make matters worse for the state government, educated job-seekers are moving out of Tripura and going to Bengaluru, Pune, Chennai and Kolkata in search of better job avenues, according to voters in the state

“The condition of Tripura is not up to the mark. Unemployment is a key issue. It has grown considerably in the last few years. There are no new opportunities for people to work here and there are no industries. Even government employees have not been given their due and the latest pay commission (report) remains unimplemented," said Krishan Nath, 26, a student at Agartala Government Medical College in Pratapgarh constituency of Agartala district.

The 60-seat assembly goes to polls on 18 February and results will be announced on 3 March.

According to the fifth employment-unemployment survey published in 2016 by the Labour Bureau, Tripura topped the list of states and Union territories with the highest unemployment rate—at 19.7%. The state economic survey portrays a similar situation as there were 693,516 job seekers listed in employment exchanges of the state in March 2016. Opposition parties claim that the number of job seekers has now grown to approximately 750,000 people.

CPM leaders say that to solve the issue of unemployment, a domestic market will need to be created. However, they allege that a shortage of funding from the central government makes it difficult to implement any plans.

“The Left Front government, in spite of the negative attitude of the central government, has been giving employment in its departments but that will not solve the unemployment issue. The main plan is that we have to create a domestic market. We have to increase the purchasing power of different sections of society," said a senior CPM leader, who did not wish to be named.

Seizing the opportunity, BJP in its vision document for the state, which was released on Sunday, promised to set up special economic zones (SEZs) for sectors like food processing, bamboo, information technology (IT) and textiles. It has also promised to provide jobs to every household.

“Most people are dependent on agriculture and government jobs for their income. Even with a degree it is a struggle to find a job," said 29-year-old Debashish Bhattacharya in Badarghat constituency.

Analysts believe that unemployment will continue to be an issue regardless of which party comes to power.

“Whichever party comes to power, unemployment will continue to be an issue. There is no plan to reduce the unemployment rate. The CPM is working on shifting the focus of the campaign to peace, corruption and tribal issues. The BJP has made promises to tackle unemployment and implement the 7th pay commission but is unclear on how it will implement them," said Gautam Chakma, associate professor, department of political science, Tripura University.

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