By Ashis Biswas
In Tripura, the main contending formations in the coming Assembly elections have stepped up efforts to secure an alliance with the pace-setting tribal Tipra Motha (TM) party. So far, the TM has maintained an equidistance from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)/IPFT alliance and the Left front/Congress grouping.
Observers find such tactics somewhat predicable in the present circumstances. Both camps indirectly acknowledge the increasing political clout of the TM, especially after its spectacular victory in the Autonomous Tribal District Council Elections. A consolidation among 30% tribal voters in the state now looks a distinct possibility, prior to the 2023 polls.
On the other hand, the larger non-tribal majority votes will almost certainly get split several ways, which should strengthen the prospects of a tribal outfit emerging as a major contender of power . In 2018, the tribal IPFT (Indigenous Peoples’ Front of Tripura) had won eight seats out 60 — this, despite the reservation of 20 seats for tribals, a result of a split among tribal votes. The TM appears determined to prevent such a split of tribal votes in 2023 state assembly polls.
Recently, the CPI(M)-led Left Front and the Tripura state Congress unit in a rare joint statement appealed to the people of the state not to vote for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Instead of the rule of law in Tripura, Left and Congress leaders alleged, the rule of the jungle was prevailing.
There were systematic attacks on various minority groups, against women and the poor, who also suffered a loss of jobs .murders, the intimidation of opposition activists, extortions and assaults on basic human rights had become common during the BJP rule. A section of the state police actively colluded with leaders of the ruling party and even with criminals who enjoyed political backing.
The distress among the people has become acute, who became further confused as there was no possibility of any redressal of their grievances as officials remained non responsive to their complaints. No opposition party had escaped the excesses committed by the BJP. The survival of democracy and minimal observance of standard political norms became uncertain under the BJP’s rule.
Veteran CPI(M) leader Mr Jitendra Choudhury and Mr. Birajit Sinha of Congress came together to address a news conference some days ago , while releasing the joint statement. Representatives of the RSP, the CPI and the CPI(M-L) were present. They claimed that they had approached TM leader Mr, Pradyot Manikya Debbarman to join their effort. They claimed that Mr Debbarman, not a signatory to the joint statement, fully endorsed the sentiments expressed in the statement.
State BJP leaders lost no time to denounce what they described as an opportunist alignment of the forces opposing them. Rejecting the allegation that the very foundations of democratic political functioning had been shaken, they claimed that the misrule of the Left front and earlier by Congress had become fully exposed over the years. They had been defeated in the polls and instead of recovering, they were losing more ground, which demoralised their followers.
According to the BJP, this had forced erstwhile arch enemies like the CPI(M) and Congress together in an opportunist alliance. Again, some senior Congress leaders had not signed the joint statement. In itself, the move proclaimed their weakness and lack of confidence as the elections approached.
The BJP was not impacted by such spectacles of a sham ‘unity’ among its opponents. Left parties and Congress had tried to adopt a joint mode of campaigning and even poll understanding, solely to stand up to the BJP’s challenge elsewhere also, including West Bengal. They had failed miserably in their campaigns against the BJP as the people could not support their opportunism. Common people could feel the benefits of the major investments and schemes that had been launched in Tripura from 2018 during the BJP’s tenure.
While the BJP’s reaction was along expected lines, Mr Debbarman, TM leader. chose to remain non-commitant about these moves. Later in a measured reaction to the media, he maintained his equidistant position from both the pro-BJP and the anti-BJP camps.
The TM also felt the present law and order situation was not good, as the basic rights of tribals as well as non tribals had been affected since 2018. This had led to public suffering. The TM was keeping a watch over the situation. As for the coming together of Congress and the Left parties, Mr, Debbarman said that Congressmen and supporters had suffered in a major way during the prolonged LF rule.
There was further indication that the BJP, too, had changed its earlier stance regarding an alliance with a tribal organisation prior to the polls. It has not written off its existing alliance with the IPFT, which incidentally could not do very well against the TM in the District Council polls. State BJP leaders had earlier ruled out any alliance with the TM.
However, now sections of the NE-based observers suggest that this has changed. Prime Minister Mr, Narendra Modi himself had told Tripura BJP leaders to begin pre-poll talks with the TM, during a recent closed door meeting with Tripura party leaders. Some state leaders had been assigned with the task of initiating a dialogue, with the TM,. On behalf of the central BJP leadership, senior party spokesman Mr. Sambit Patra would monitor and report progress to Delhi. (IPA Service)