Congress is missing Mamata in Tripura

When the Left Front was voted out of power in West Bengal on the strength of Mamata Banerjee's call for "Poriborton" less than two years ago, Congressmen in Tripura had taken heart. It was, they had hoped, a sign that change could come to this Northeast state too, after 20 years of Left Front rule.

They had even hoped it would be Mamata who would spearhead that change, as the leader of a UPA alliance. With Mamata no longer part of the Congress-led group, these hopes lie shattered as the state heads for elections days from now.

The elevation of Pranab Mukherjee as the President of India as well as the absence of another senior Bengali-speaking leader of the Congress, Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi, who is ailing, have also had an impact on the party campaign. As a senior PCC leader in Agartala recalled, while Priya-da knew politics thoroughly in the Bengali-dominated state, Mukherjee had always been among the party's star campaigners in Tripura. As Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and PM Manmohan Singh all come to lend their weight to the party, they will find a Congress so riven with infighting that all leaders of the PCC's tribal department have resigned to fight as Independents.

The Congress isn't going down without a fight though. From a billboard proclaiming change to a chargesheet lambasting "the demonic face of the administration", and its "corruption, nepotism, misgovernance and arrogance", it has left no stone unturned. According to the party, Tripura is sitting atop a volcano that is waiting to erupt in a massive public protest.

Is the Left Front ruffled? Far from it. There is no tension whatsoever in the party headquarters where Chief Minister Manik Sarkar spends an hour late every evening in closed-door meetings with top colleagues after campaigning. It's the confidence of a party looking at its seventh poll win.

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