AGARTALA: With all eyes set on the fight between the CPI(M)-led Left Front and the BJP in Tripura, the Trinamool Congress, once an emerging force to reckon with in the north eastern state, is now struggling to make its presence felt in the upcoming Assembly election.
The Trinamool Congress (TMC) has formed an alliance with the Indigenous Nationalist Party of Twipra (INPT) and National Conference of Tripura for the February 18 poll.
The party has fielded candidates in 24 seats of the total 60 constituencies in the state.
TMC's in-charge of Tripura, Sabyasachi Dutta, who is an MLA in West Bengal Assembly, told PTI that he is positive that the TMC will be a force to reckon with in the state.
On whether he is confident that this alliance will come to power, he said, "Let us see what happens. We do not have money power like the BJP. But we are trying to give a tough fight."
A Tripura TMC leader, who did not wish to be named, said, "The party is fighting to make its presence felt in the state.
We were once emerging as the main opposition, but now we have again started from scratch. Neither do we have funds nor the people to contest."
TMC supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had a few days ago stated that her party, which had built an organisation in Tripura, had to start afresh.
In an obvious reference to Mukul Roy, former TMC general secretary who joined the BJP last year, she blamed a "traitor within the party" for the present condition.
"The reason why we are unable to contest Tripura polls properly is due to a lack of funds.
We were able to establish our organisational network in Tripura earlier. But because of a traitor who joined the BJP, we suffered a setback," Banerjee had said.
After defeating the 34-year-old Left regime in West Bengal in 2011, Banerjee had set her sight on Tripura that has a huge Bengali-speaking population. She had entrusted Roy with the job of expanding the party's base in the border state.
In 2016, the TMC had inducted six Congress MLAs into the party and became the main opposition in Tripura Assembly.
The TMC began expanding its base in the state but things started changing when the BJP came into the picture.
The six MLAs who had switched over to the TMC crossed over to the BJP just ahead of the presidential elections citing their displeasure over the TMC's support to Congress presidential candidate Meira Kumar. The TMC leadership believes it was Roy who had engineered the defection to the BJP.
"We joined the BJP as the TMC had joined hands with both the CPI(M) and the Congress.
When we had joined the TMC, we had thought that the party was serious in fighting the CPI(M). But the TMC's decision to help the Congress and the CPI(M) disappointed us," BJP MLA Sudip Roy Burman said.
The TMC, just ahead of the Assembly polls, had tried hard to stitch an alliance with the Congress in the state but it did not work out, with the TMC demanding 30 seats.
"The TMC does not have a base in the state and they are asking for 30 seats. Is it a logical demand? We don't need TMC," Tripura Congress president Birajit Sinha told PTI.
Sinha blamed the TMC for weakening the Congress in the state by poaching the six party MLAs in 2016 who had later crossed over to the BJP.
Sabyasachi Dutta, however, said the Congress was not at all interested in an alliance with the TMC as it had offered only five seats to the party.
TMC's alliance partner NCT's state president Animesh Debbarma said they are hopeful that the alliance will have an impact in the polls and play a crucial role post elections.
Describing the TMC as an "insignificant political force" in Tripura, Mukul Roy said the people of the state want the BJP to end the Left misrule in the north eastern state.
"The people of Tripura want to be part of the developmental process that the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi have initiated," he said.