Tripura tribal parties raise sensitive issues during polls, then back off

Agartala: Like other tribal parties on previous occasions, the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT) and the Tipra Motha Party (TMP), raised demands like a separate state for the tribals in Tripura, got electoral gains in the 2018 and 2023 assembly polls, but subsequently moved on to other issues leading to non-fulfilment of the basic issues of the tribals.

The IPFT, an ally of the ruling BJP, raising the demand for a separate state secured 8 seats and a 7.38 per cent vote share in the 2018 assembly polls, but in the February 16 (2023) assembly polls the party managed only one seat and 1.26 per cent vote share as they diluted their demand, being highlighted since 2009.

The TMP led by former royal scion Pradyot Bikram Manikya Deb Barman in its maiden electoral battle fielded 42 candidates, including 20 on tribal reserved seats in the Tripura assembly polls in February and bagged 13 seats and 19.69 per cent votes.

The TMP, after capturing the politically important Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC) in April 2021, has been demanding elevation of the areas of the autonomous body by granting a ‘Greater Tipraland State’ or a separate state status under Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution.

The ruling BJP, CPI-M led Left parties, Congress and the Trinamool Congress have been strongly opposing the demands of both the IPFT and the TIPRA.

The two tribal based parties in support of their demands organised agitations both in the state and in the national capital Delhi.<br> <br>After the announcement of the results of the February 16 assembly polls on March 2, the TMP gradually shifted its stand about the ‘Greater Tipraland State’ demand.

After attending the BJP-IPFT ministers’ swearing in ceremony on March 8, Home Minister Amit Shah, BJP president J.P. Nadda, Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, Tripura chief minister Manik Saha held a meeting with TMP supremo Deb Barman. All the 13 TMP MLAs and senior leaders of the party were present at the marathon meeting.

The BJP keeping in mind the tribal votes also requested the TMP leaders to join the BJP led ministry and kept three ministerial berths vacant for the tribal party.

After the March 8 meeting, the TMP chief had claimed that the Centre would soon appoint an interlocutor to study their demand but the Union government has yet to appoint any such interlocutor. <br> <br>Just before the March 24 election to the 60-member Tripura assembly, Speaker Deb Barman had said that the Union Home Minister had informed him that the Centre would appoint an interlocutor by March 27 to study the “constitutional solutions” to the TMP’s demands for more autonomy and socio-economic development of the tribals, who constitute one-third of Tripura’s 4 million population.

Deb Barman had said that Shah has assured him that like in the case of Nagaland, an interlocutor will be appointed to study and resolve the demands of the TMP within three months.

“If we find satisfactory constitutional solutions to our demands, we would sign an accord with the Central government. Unless and until our demands are resolved, we will not join the BJP-led government in Tripura,” he had said.

In the last week of March Deb Barman had announced an indefinite hunger strike unless the Centre met the party’s demands by March 27 and after two days the TMP leaders held a meeting with Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma in Guwahati.

Returning to Agartala, senior TMP MLA and opposition leader in the Tripura Assembly, Animesh Debbarma had said that the meeting with Sarma was “very fruitful”.

According to a Tripura government notification, the Centre’s advisor on northeast affairs Akshay Kumar Mishra was supposed to visit Tripura on May 12 but he did not turn up.

Now the TMP highlights the introduction of roman scripts for the tribal “Kokborok” language at all academic levels from school to university.

During the past over five-and-a-half decades, tribal based parties in Tripura tried to play a crucial role in the state’s politics but due to their issue based politics sans any ideology they became nonexistent after their issues were resolved or when they raised irrelevant demands.

In June 1967, the Tripura Upajati Juba Samity (TUJS), a former ally of the Congress, was formed as the first tribal based political party raising some tribal centric demands including creation of the tribal autonomous body.

After the TUJS, over a dozen tribal based political parties including Tripura Hills People’s Party, Tripura National Volunteers (a militant outfit turned political party), Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura (INPT), Tipraland State Party (TSP), IPFT, National Conference of Tripura (NCT) have been created but over the years these parties suffered a premature death or had to merge with other parties.

In 2002, the TUJS and the TNV merged with the INPT and last year the INPT merged with the new tribal based party TMP led by Deb Barman, a former Tripura state Congress president.

Political commentator and writer Satyabrata Chakraborti said that the tribal parties in Tripura before the elections always raised sensitive and impractical demands to pacify the tribal voters but after electoral gains, they forgot their original demands.

“Tribals in Tripura and the other states in India are backward in almost all aspects and areas. Health, education, basic necessities, and infrastructure are inadequate in the tribal areas. The tribal based parties forgetting the realistic issues raised sensitive and unrealistic demands only for electoral gain,” Chakraborti told IANS.

He said that many tribal leaders did not live in tribal and remote areas, staying in capital city Agartala or in towns, and did not have proper knowledge about the daily needs and problems of the common and poor tribals.

(Sujit Chakraborty can be contacted at [email protected])


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