The pattern in the electoral outcomes in the States of the northeast, which went to the polls, appears similar in important ways. There has clearly been an endorsement of the ruling alliances in all three States, with varying degrees of assertiveness. In Tripura, the BJP-led coalition was returned to power with a smaller majority and a ten percentage point decline in vote share as compared with its first historic win here five years ago. The alliance of the Left and Congress came a distant second, witnessing both a marginal fall in seat share and a ten percentage point drop in vote share as compared to 2018. The beneficiary of this decline in vote and seat share of both the BJP-led alliance and the Left-Congress alliance has been the new player in State politics, the Tipra Motha, which secured close to 20% of the votes and came a close third with 13 seats (Table 1).
The Lokniti-CSDS post poll in Tripura provides key insights in explaining the results and the mood of the voter. It is clear that the individual candidates played a minor role in defining voter choice. For those who voted for the BJP and the Left-led alliances, the party seemed to be the most important factor, with more than half the respondents indicating the same. Another one-fourth of those who voted for the two alliances asserted that both the party and candidate were key factors in determining whom to vote for.
Supporters of the Tipra Motha took a distinctly different stand. While one-fourth of the respondents who voted for this regional party said that both party and candidate were an important consideration, another two of every ten said it was the party, and one in every ten said it was the candidate. However, what made supporters of the Tipra Motha different was the fact that for two of every ten respondents, the leadership of the party leader, Deb Barma, was the key factor, and for another two of every ten, the caste/tribe factor was crucial.
It is important to record that two years ago, in 2021, the Tipra Motha swept to power in the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council elections (see Table 2). Thus, while the BJP-led alliance was endorsed for a second term in office, the new player on the block is clearly the Tipra Motha. The main goal of the party is the creation of the State of ‘Greater Tipraland’. For a new entrant, to garner nearly 20% vote in its debut election is a critical feat. As the piece on caste-community basis shows, this was made possible by the huge support the Tipra Motha received from the State’s tribal voters and their support of the demand for a greater Tipraland.
The Tripura voters had made up their minds on whom to vote for well before the declaration of elections. Three of every five voters asserted that they had taken the decision on whom to vote for well before the election campaign began. Around one-third stated that they took the decision during the campaign or at the last minute. Voters seem to have assessed the political choices that they wanted to make well before the declaration of the candidates and the cut and thrust of the campaign. It is also important to note that the Tipra Motha’s supporters were a little more likely to say that they decided on their choice much before the start of the campaign (Table 3 and 4).
The BJP-led alliance appeared to have a better strategy to reach out to voters as two-thirds of the respondents indicated that someone reached out to them during the campaign seeking their support. Less than six of every ten respondents said the same about the Left-led alliance. It is interesting that only one-fourth of the respondents said that a supporter of Tipra Motha approached them on behalf of the party. This could also imply that the Tipra Motha had a concentrated area of campaign and focused on those areas where they saw the potential for support (Table 5).
The BJP-led alliance drew stronger support among women with close to half the women respondents voting in its favour with a handsome gender advantage of 13%. Among the first time voters, the Left-led alliance seemed to have higher levels of support. The BJP-led alliance did much better among those in the 26-35 years age group and the older voters. The Tipra Motha drew very little support among first-time voters. Support for the BJP-led alliance declined as the access to education improved. The Left-led alliance drew support from both the better educated and non-literate voters. The BJP-led alliance did much better in urban areas and enjoyed higher levels of support among the lower and middle class. On the other hand, the vote share of the Left-led alliance increased as one moved from the less affluent to the economically better off. It is also important to record that more than one-third the poor voters favoured the Tipra Motha (see Table 6). However, this may be more because of the economically weaker condition of the Adivasis who supported the party.
The Tripura verdict has three clear indicators. The BJP-led alliance, which breached what was a Left citadel five years ago, continues to enjoy popular support, though there is a visible decline as compared to 2018. Secondly, the new player in State politics, the Tipra Motha, has clearly signalled its presence. Having won the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council elections two years ago, they appear to be consolidating their presence. Thirdly, the Left-Congress alliance were unable to secure any major electoral gains by coming together. The political chemistry of the alliance did not seem to create the impact on voters as anticipated by the alliance partners. There are clear takeaways for all the key players in the politics of the State.
Sandeep Shastri is Vice Chancellor at Jagran Lakecity University, Bhopal, and national coordinator of the Lokniti network; Suhas Palshikar taught political science and is chief editor of Studies in Indian Politics ; Sanjay Kumar is professor and co-director Lokniti-Centre for Study of Developing Societies (CSDS)