Tribal party TIPRA emerges as the big challenger in Tripura politics

With less than six months to go for the elections to the 60-member Assembly, the Tipraha Indigenous Progressive Regional Alliance (TIPRA), a tribal-based party is fast emerging as a main force in the indigenous people dominated areas to give the ruling BJP and the opposition parties a tough challenge.

As tribals constitute over one third of Tripura’s four million population and with 20 tribal reserved seats (in the 60-member Assembly), the indigenous people always played a very vital role in the electoral politics of erstwhile princely ruled Tripura, which before merging with the Indian Union on October 15, 1949 had been governed by 184 tribal kings.

In Tripura’s 20 tribal reserved seats and in 10 Scheduled Caste reserved seats, the CPI-M led Left parties had been traditionally the strongholds.

In the 2018 Assembly elections and in the polls to the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC) in April last year, the Left party virtually lost the space to the TIPRA, locally known as TIPRA Motha.

To regain their lost ground among the tribals, the CPI-M has appointed Jitendra Chowdhury, a senior tribal leader and former minister, as the state secretary a year ago.

In over seven decades of the Left movement in Tripura, Chowdhury, 64, has been the second tribal leader to become the state Secretary of CPI-M in Tripura after former Chief Minister late Dasaratha Deb, who along with another former Chief Minister Nripen Chakraborty, were the father figures of the Left movement in Tripura.

When TIPRA, headed by Tripura’s former royal scion Pradyot Bikram Manikya Deb Barman, scripted history in the Northeastern state and wrested the 30-member TTAADC in the April 6, 2021 elections, it became the main political force in the tribal areas leaving behind the Left, the Congress and the BJP in Tripura.

Highlighting their demand of “Greater Tipraland” (upliftment of tribals in Tripura and outside), the TIPRA defeated the CPI-M led Left Front, the BJP and the Congress in the elections to the TTAADC, which in terms of political significance is considered as a mini-legislative Assembly after the Tripura Legislative Assembly.

Constituted in 1985 under the sixth schedule of the Constitution, the TTAADC has jurisdiction over two-thirds of Tripura’s 10,491 sq. km. area and is home to over 12,16,000 people, of which around 84 per cent are tribals, making the autonomous constitutional body the second important law making legislature after the Tripura assembly.

After the merger of the Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura (INPT), one of the state’s oldest tribal-based parties, last year with TIPRA, the latter got a further political boost to take on the other local and national parties.

Deb Barman while talking to IANS, said that his party TIPRA would not forge any pre-poll alliance with any political party and put up at least 40 candidates in the next Assembly polls.

Besides the emergence of the TIPRA, which changed the political spectrum of the Northeastern state, the Trinamool Congress entered Tripura politics last year for the second phase.

Though the Trinamool supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee constituted a full-fledged state committee headed by state President Subal Bhowmik, who was earlier in both the Congress and the BJP.

The Trinamool leadership on August 24 removed Bhowmik from the post of president causing a confusion among the party men and the mind set of the common people.

Trinamool’s Rajya Sabha Member Sushmita Dev, who along with party’s state in-charge and former West Bengal Minister Rajib Banerjee leading the party, told IANS that they would form district and block committees of the party and then plunge into the political activities after Durga puja festival next month.

“The Trinamool is the only alternative to defeat the BJP and it was already crystal clear among the people that the Congress and the Left parties have no political ability to defeat the BJP,” said Dev, who’s father and former Union Minister late Santosh Mohan Dev was elected to the Lok Sabha from Tripura twice on a Congress ticket.

In an apparent attempt to tame anti-incumbency and stem any discontent within its organisation in Tripura, the BJP in May adopted its now successfully tested strategy of going in with a new face in the state Assembly polls.

On May 14, Biplab Kumar Deb stepped down from the post of Chief Minister following the directions of the Central leaders.and dental surgeon-turned-politician Manik Saha became Chief Minister on the next day.

The BJP, however, is yet to disclose why Deb was abruptly removed from the top post.

With the strategy of changing the chief minister months ahead of elections working in its favour in Uttarakhand, the BJP’s central leaders opted for a similar change in Tripura where polls are expected to be held in February next year.

The BJP has changed five chief ministers since 2019, including Gujarat and Karnataka.

(Sujit Chakraborty can be contacted at sujit.c@ians.in)

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