“There was nothing to start with. Everything had to be built from the grassroots. I had just a handful of karyakartas, and just one leader – Subal Bhowmik (now the vice-president of the BJP’s state unit) – with me then,” Sunil Deodhar told Swarajya.
Every grand success story has a hero. A hero who achieves victory against all odds, overcoming all obstacles and one who continues his struggle in the face of the great story. From losing deposits on 49 of the 50 seats it contested to emerging victorious in the next Assembly Elections, it is indeed a herculean effort. If the hero for the BJP in the General Elections 2014 was Amit Shah, in Assam was Himanta Biswa Sharma, then quite undoubtedly, in Tripura it was Sunil Deodhar.
Sunil Deodhar, who had previously managed Narendra Modi’s campaign in Varanasi in 2014, was given the responsibility of securing victory in the Left bastion. In 2 and a half years, he transformed a state unit with no vision and no direction into a ruthless machine built for victory. With slogans such as ‘Chalo Paltai (Let’s change)’ and extensive social media management, he changed the fate of the Saffron Party in the northeastern state.
Sunil Deodhar was appointed the Tripura-in-charge in November 2014 and the first indication of his efforts bearing fruit came in 2015 when the BJP dislodged the Congress in the second position in the by-polls in the Pratapgarh and Surma seats. Then, the surest sign came when the party went on to win 2 seats in the Gram Panchayat elections the next year. And before the state went to polls on the 18th of February, Deodhar stated that the BJP-IPFT alliance will secure a 2/3rd majority in the Assembly. His words have proved to be prophetic.
Deodhar targeted the much advertised clean image of Manik Sarkar and exposed it as a sham. He had said, “To break the myth about Sarkar’s goodwill as a clean leader and able administrator, BJP is questioning his simple and frugal lifestyle and also the state’s performance which has been good but only in the books.” He came up with the slogan ‘Tripura te garib mor-e, mukhya mantri chopper te chor-e’ (Poor die in Tripura, the Chief Minister rides a chopper). He took the fight straight to the Chief Minister and emerged victorious in the end.
Deodhar also coined catchy phrases like ‘Chalo Paltai’ which went viral on Social Media. Before long, ‘Chalo Paltai had become popular with the people of Tripura who would often greet each other with the phrase.
Deodhar also highlighted the Modi Doot Yojana where a Karyakarta would board the morning train from Agartala to Dharmanagar and distribute pamphlets in Bengali and Kokborok. They would collect the phone numbers of passengers and send them messages about the good work done by the BJP and the misrule of the ruling Left Front.
Deodhar also roped in Congress workers and leaders into the party to build its own base. He correctly identified the anti-Left sentiment in the public and recognized that Congress wasn’t a viable alternative. He organized morchas, booth level committees and made sure union ministers visited remote corners of the state when they were in Tripura. He inducted tribals into the party and offered them important positions which brought the neglected tribal community closer to the Party. During the Durga Puja, small booths cloaked in the imagery of the BJP could be seen along the roads in Agartala where workers sat offering people water.
He had told The Print, “In the last one year, even CPI(M) started breaking. We formed booths. Today out of 3,214 booths, 3,209 booth committees are ready. In one voter list of a booth, there is an average of 15-17 pages, on each page, there are 60 voters. We have a panna pramukh for each page and his duty is to knock on the door of each of these 60 voters in one fortnight.”
Deodhar flooded Tripura with banners and flags and Karyakartas and the results of the Assembly Elections are a testament to his hard work and dedication. To catapult a party which had secure less than 2% vote-share to a 2/3rd majority in the next Assembly Elections is indeed a miracle. And the BJP with its dedicated karyakartas and leaders has proved time and time again, hard work tends to make miracles happen more often.