In a scintillating performance, the BJP seemed all set on Saturday to storm to power in Tripura in alliance with the tribal-based IPFT outfit, crushing the CPI-M led Left Front in one of the country's last remaining red bastions.
A virtual political non-entity all these years in the tiny northeastern state, where it had drawn a blank in terms of seats and secured only 1.5 per cent of votes in the assembly polls five years back, the saffron outfit Bharatiya Janata Party has raised prospects of getting an absolute majority on its own with its candidates leading in 32 constituencies in the 60-strong assembly.
However, the elections were held for 59 seats and countermanded in one following the death of a ruling Left Front major CPI-M candidate a week before the February 18 polls.
The BJP ally, the Indigenous People's Front of Tripura, was ahead in eight seats.
The Left Front, which has ruled the state uninterruptedly for the past quarter of a century, was far behind, with the Communist Party of India-Marxist candidates leading in 19 seats.
According to the trends, BJP-IPFT alliance might secure 40 seats, nine more than the simple majority figure of 31.
In the last assembly elections in 2013, the LF had secured 50 seats while remaining 10 seats went to the Congress, which this time seems unlikely to open its account.
For the BJP, apart from its likely first-time victory in Tripura, it was a cause for big celebration, as along with its partner IPFT, it is going to capture another northeastern state after Assam, Manipur, Nagaland (where also results are being counted during the day) and Arunachal Pradesh.
Tripura Pradesh BJP President Biplab Kumar Deb (Banamalipur), BJP nominees Sudip Roy Barman (Agartala), Ratanlal Nath (Mohanpur), Rampada Jamatia (Bagma), Dilip Kumar Das (Barjala), Diba Chandra Hrangkhawl (Karamchara), are ahead of their rival candidates.
IPFT candidates including Narendra Chandra Debbarma (Takarjala), Mevar Kumar Jamatia (Asharambari) and Prashanta Debbarma (Ramchandraghat) are also in the lead.
Sitting CPI-M legislator and Tribal Welfare Minister Aghore Debbarma (Asharambari constituency), Forest and rural development minister Narensh Chandra Jamatia (Bagma), Deputy Speaker of the Tripura assembly Pabitra Kar (Khayerpur), Left Front's Chief Whip Basudeb Majumder (Belonia) are among those who are trailing.
Chief Minister and CPI-M politburo member Manik Sarkar (Dhanpur constituency), Health and PWD Minister Badal Choudhury (Hrishamukh), Education Minister Tapan Chakraborty (Chandipur), Information, food and civil supplies minister Bhanulal Saha (Bishalgarh), Sports and youth affairs minister Sahid Chowdhury, Tripura assembly speaker Ramendra Chandra Debbarma, Jail minister Manindra Reang are leading over their rival BJP and IPFT candidates.
A total of 290 candidates, including 23 women, of the ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist, Communist Party of India, Bharatiya Janata Party and Congress and many independents, are in the fray.
Balloting in Charilam (reserved for the tribals) has been deferred to March 12 after CPI-M candidate Ramendra Narayan Debbarma died a week before the polls.
Over 92 per cent (excluding 50,700 postal ballots) of Tripura's 2,536,589 voters cast their votes on February 18 in a peaceful election, setting a new record in India's electoral history.