BJP Plans Aggressive Foray Into Tribal Areas Of Tripura, Sets Target Of Winning Majority Tribal Seats Next Year

by Jaideep Mazumdar - Jul 27, 2022 06:24 PM +05:30 IST
BJP Plans Aggressive Foray Into Tribal Areas Of Tripura, Sets Target Of Winning Majority Tribal Seats Next Year Tripura Chief Minister Manik Saha and Deputy Chief Minister Jishnu Dev Varma
Snapshot
  • With just a little over six months left for the Assembly elections slated for February next year, the BJP has felt the urgent need to focus on the tribal areas.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is planning a massive outreach in the tribal areas of Tripura and has set a target of winning at least 12 to 14 of the twenty seats reserved for tribals in the Assembly elections early next year.

The BJP won ten of the twenty seats while its ally, the Indigenous People's Front of Tripura (IPFT), won eight in the 2018 Assembly polls. The CPI(M) won the remaining two.

But the emergence of the Tipraha Indigenous Progressive Regional Alliance (popularly called the TIPRA Motha) led by the charismatic royal scion Pradyot Bikram Manikya Deb Barma has caused some consternation in the BJP.

The TIPRA Motha, which wants a separate state of ‘Greater Tipraland’ carved out of the tribal-inhabited areas of Tripura, swept the elections to the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC) by winning 16 of the 28 seats. Its ally--the Indigenous Nationalist Party of Twipra (INPT)--won two seats.

But while BJP ally IPFT drew a blank, the saffron party itself won a respectable nine seats. The IPFT has been wracked by dissent and desertions from its ranks, and political analysts say there is little chance of the tribal party being able to pull itself out of the morass it is in, at least in the near future.

This is what has led to consternation among state BJP leaders. “We had an arrangement with the IPFT that it will win most of the tribal seats while we (BJP) will concentrate on the non-tribal seats. But the IPFT has become very weak and has little chance of taking on the TIPRA Motha. So we have to step in and fight in the tribal areas on our own,” said a senior BJP leader.

Tripura Deputy Chief Minister Jishnu Dev Varma, who is also a member of the erstwhile royal family, told Swarajya that the BJP’s Janajati Morcha has made “tremendous strides” in the tribal areas and has emerged as a major force.

“We have become very popular in the tribal areas and the tribals are fed up with the empty promises and violent ways of the TIPRA Motha. The Motha won a majority of the TTAADC seats in the April 2021 elections, but its popularity has waned since then and the BJP has emerged as a major force in the tribal areas”.

Dev Varma met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi Saturday last (July 23) and discussed many issues pertaining to the development of the state. Dev Varma, who holds important portfolios like finance, power and rural development, said that the focus of the discussions was improving rural connectivity and ensuring round-the-clock quality power in the rural areas, including the tribal areas.

Senior state BJP leaders said that a few major announcements pertaining to the tribal areas--more powers to the TTAADC and some specific projects and schemes for those areas--are in the offing. “The deputy CM’s meeting with the Prime Minister was about getting the union government’s clearance for those major announcements,” a BJP leader told Swarajya.

With just a little over six months left for the Assembly elections slated for February next year, the BJP has felt the urgent need to focus on the tribal areas. “We cannot depend on the IPFT to take on the TIPRA Motha. We are strong enough to fight the Motha on our own,” said the BJP leader.

Union Minister of State for Social Empowerment and Justice, Pratima Bhoumik, who is the Lok Sabha MP from Tripura West constituency, told Swarajya:

“TIPRA Motha’s Pradyot Deb Barma has been trying to mislead the tribals in the name of demanding a ‘Tipraland’ state. But our government at the state and the centre is focused on developing the tribal areas. We are not into narrow-minded and divisive politics. The tribals of Tripura have seen through his (Pradyot’s) game and have got disillusioned with him”.

Bhoumik accused the TIPRA Motha of being in league with the CPI(M).

“The TIPRA Motha has been propped by the CPI(M) and is the communist party’s proxy. Why didn’t Pradyot Deb Barma ever raise the demand for greater ‘Tipraland’ earlier? His father (Kirit Bikram Manikya Bahadur) and his mother (Bibhu Kumari Devi) were both MPs when the Congress was in power. He (Pradyot) was a senior functionary in the Congress. Why didn't his parents or Pradyot himself raise the demand for a separate state earlier?” asked Bhoumik.

Tripura Information Minister Sushanta Chowdhury told Swarajya that it is clear that the CPI(M) has propped the TIPRA Motha. “The CPI(M) wants to create disaffection amongst the tribals and shift the focus away from development by raising emotive issues like a separate state for tribals. The CPI(M)’s game plan is to alienate the tribals from the BJP through the Motha,” he said.

But the tribals, claim BJP leaders, have seen through the plot of the CPI(M). “We are focused on development of the tribal areas and development is the key to defeat the divisive politics of the Motha,” said state Industry and Commerce Minister Sanatana Chakma, herself a tribal.

BJP leaders say that some major projects aimed at developing the tribal areas of the state, as well as some welfare measures for them, will be announced soon. The development plan will, thus, be the BJP’s poll agenda in the tribal areas in the 2023 elections.

Also Read: Congress Proposes Alliance With Left To Take On BJP In Tripura, But Here's Why Such A Tie-Up May Not Work

Jaideep Mazumdar is an associate editor at Swarajya.

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