In the small northeastern state of Tripura, politics has heated up regarding the assembly elections to be held in February this year. While the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which has seen two Chief Ministers during its five years of rule is putting forth all its top leaders and resources to retain power. At the same time, the opposition is also seen in aggressive mode and is also forging alliances to keep BJP away from power.
The BJP came to power in the state for the first time in alliance with the separatist Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT), defeating the 25-year-old Left government.
However, this time the opposition seems to be working in unison to oust the BJP from power. On Wednesday, Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitaram Yechury confirmed a “secular” electoral alliance with the Congress and the popular Tipra Motha formed in 2019 by former Congress leader and Tripura royal scion Pradyot Kishor Manikya Debbarman. Expressed his party’s willingness to forge a pre-poll alliance.
According to a report in The Times of India, Yechury said that a formal alliance with the Congress would be announced later this week. Yechury was talking to reporters in Agartala. Mukul Wasnik, the Congress observer for the Tripura elections, was also in Agartala.
Yechury reportedly said that the “seat-sharing” formula would be worked out soon, adding that the Tripura state committee of the CPI(M) was also in favor of a pre-poll alliance with Tipra Motha.
“We consider the upcoming elections important not only for Tripura, but also for democracy, rule of law and the Constitution”, he said, adding that these are important issues in the context of the development of the Northeast, India and the country.
According to a report in The Times of India, when asked whether the Left party supports the Tripura Motha demand for Greater Tipraland, the party’s Tripura state secretary, Jitendra Chowdhary, who is also a leader of the tribal community, said that the Tipra Motha demands are “within the framework” of the Constitution.
“We have held talks with them… We are looking for an amicable understanding to free the people of Tripura from the reign of terror,” he said.
But interestingly, Tipra Motha leader Debbarman on Sunday hinted at BJP’s ally IPFT to unite with him and contest on the same symbol.
In a video message on Facebook to top IPFT officials, the royal scion said, “We, the tribal community, have common political demands for empowerment and autonomy. It does not matter what will be the name of the new political entity after integration.” He further said that he was “ready to give up the name of his party” for the larger interests of the indigenous community of Tripura.
Debbarma’s views on IPFT come at a time when three MLAs of BJP’s ‘tribal ally’ quit the ruling coalition government ahead of the assembly elections. In fact, a total of seven MLAs (including BJP MLAs), have quit the ruling government so far.
While the BJP said it would confirm its alliance with the IPFT, Tipra Motha, which is in power in the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council from 2021. The offer comes at a time when the IPFT is going through a leadership crisis following the recent death of its leader NC Debbarma. NC Debbarma was keen on an alliance with Tipra Motha.
Reacting to the proposal, IPFT spokesperson Amit Debbarma told The Indian Express, “Senior leaders of our party will consider the proposal. We will soon let everyone know about our decision.”
Tripura has a total of 60 assembly seats, of which 20 are in tribal-dominated areas. With the electoral cauldron simmering, a lot will depend on which way these crucial seats go. As the opposition (Left and Congress) comes together, political observers believe that all eyes will be on Tipra Motha, who has come out strong in the past few years.