After remaining neck and neck with the Left front in leads, the BJP-IPFT front has seen a sudden, and potentially decisive surge in the number of leads towards the end of the counting process.
The surge could be because of a better-than-expected performance by the new alliance in the 20 tribal reserved seats. These seats, being in the hilly areas, tend to be the last to report their numbers.
According to the latest numbers, the BJP-IPFT alliance will grab 38-40 seats out of the total 59, compared to only 19-21 for the Left alliance led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist). In comparison, both fronts were neck and neck for the first two hours of counting.
The BJP got 41% of the total votes, its ally IPFT got 9% and the CPIM got 46% of the total votes.
The results are a huge moral victory for the party led by Amit Shah and team, and marks yet another demoralizing blow to the Left parties in India.
Tripura, which is dominated by Bengali-speakers, was the only state other than Kerala that the Left front had a sizable presence in.
The defeat would come despite the CPIM having an extremely clean leader in the form of Manik Sarkar.
The shift is being attributed to a thirst for change among the electorate, which has had continuous rule by Manik Sarkar for 20 years and the Left front for nearly a quarter of a century.
Subhir Bhowmik, a political analyst from Tripura, said the election in the state is clearly between the Left and those who oppose the Left.
“If the Tiranga (of the Congress) is not there, they will go with the saffron flag,” it said.
Bhowmik said no one suspected the honesty and integrity of Manik Sarkar, but people’s aspirations have also been growing over the last two decades.
He said Sarkar has a very good record when it comes to maintaining law and order and preventing attacks by insurgent groups, but his track-record is less than stellar when it comes to development.
“His performance in law and order has been excellent,” he said. “But his development track-record is horrible.”
A victory in Tripura, where the BJP polled only 1.5% of the total votes in the last election, could be a major morale booster for the saffron party, which had seen its confidence shaken by the close fight in Gujarat a month ago.
“Given that Tripura is a Bengali-speaking state, the victory will have a massive impact in West Bengal,” said BJP leader GVL Narasimha Rao. “It will also have an impact in Kerala as it is also ruled by the Left Front.”
The saffron party also made big leads in Nagaland, where its alliance with NDPP is ahead in 29 out of 60 seats and its former ally NPF is ahead in another 26 seats.
The BJP needs to find new grounds for victory even as its traditional catchment areas — Rajasthan, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh — are starting to feel the effects of anti-incumbency.
BJP is looking to East India, particularly West Bengal, and South India, including Kerala and Tamil Nadu, to keep its prospects strong in next year’s general election.
However, the party has found it almost impossible to break into Tamil Nadu and Kerala despite trying almost every trick in the book. The victory in Tripura, and the strong showing in Christian-dominated Nagaland and Meghalaya, are likely to give its cadres a major confidence boost ahead of national elections.