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BJP re-organising itself before Assembly polls in NE states

Apart from Tripura, Meghalaya and Nagaland would also go to the hustings, in what could be a dress rehearsal before2024 general elections.

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Agartala: The nomination of Biplab Kumar Deb as Rajya Sabha candidate and the change of guard in a key organisational post in Tripura are seemingly part of the BJP’s strategy to reduce intra-party squabbles in the country’s northeast ahead of assembly elections to three states early next year.

Apart from Tripura, Meghalaya and Nagaland would also go to the hustings, in what could be a dress rehearsal before2024 general elections.

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According to highly placed BJP sources, a couple of senior and dedicated leaders of the party from the northeast including one from Tripura are likely to be appointed as governors soon to accommodate some new faces and defuse factional fights.

As part of the move, the BJP parliamentary committee nominated former Tripura Chief Minister Deb as the party candidate for the upcoming by-poll to the state’s sole Rajya Sabha seat, which has fallen vacant following the resignation of Manik Saha after he was made the chief minister.

The by-poll is slated for September 22.

With the numbers stacked heavily in favour of the BJP, Deb – removed as state chief minister in May – is certain to make it to the Upper House of parliament, thereby virtually swapping places with Saha.

Once elected, Deb would be the second former chief minister to be sent to Rajya Sabha from the region recently.

Last year, former Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal was elected to the Rajya Sabha; and became a minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet and is now included in the party’s policy-making body.

Sonowal’s departure was considered a move to prevent the emergence of an alternate power centre that could have created hurdles in the functioning of the state’s Himanta Biswa Sarma government.

Deb’s nomination to the Rajya Sabha is also considered as a step to check the ongoing power conflict between the present Chief Minister and his predecessor, party insiders indicated. The party functionaries are vertically divided between the two camps with the majority of MLAs favouring Deb.

“The division among the leadership and differences in the functioning of the party have created an adverse impact at the ground level, supplying extra oxygen to opposition CPI-M and Congress which are working hard to encash the anti-incumbency sentiment by highlighting issues like law and order, unemployment and corruption.

BJP sources said these developments were brought to the notice of outgoing state in-charge Vinod Kumar Sonkar, but he didn’t convey it to the top level.

Recently, the central leadership realised the state of affairs in the party and replaced Sonkar with another Lok Sabha MP and former union minister Dr Mahesh Sharma. Deb’s nomination as Rajya Sabha candidate is a continuation of the process with an eye on making the party organisation more homogenous in the run-up to the assembly poll, the sources claimed.

Several names had been doing the rounds for nomination as Rajya Sabha candidate, with a section in the party strongly opposing Deb’s nomination. This section had been rooting for two close associates of Saha, but ultimately Deb succeeded in convincing the central leaders about his candidature.

The faction opposed to Deb, however, claimed that he has been “pushed out” of Tripura, for being in collusion with a group of MLAs, including a couple of ministers and some BJP leaders, to challenge the chief minister’s authority. 

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