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Updated: February 14, 2013 02:59 IST

Congress takes a royal turn to woo tribals

Syed Sajjad Ali
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Pradyot Debbarman
The Hindu Pradyot Debbarman

He would have been the ruler had Tripura not merged with Indian Union on October 15, 1949. In a State with a strong penetration of leftist ideology, this former royal seems to rule the hearts, if not minds, of many people. ‘Maharaja’ Kirit Pradyot Debbarman has been the Congress’ star campaigner, travelling to the nook and cranny of this border state, taking the Congress message of development and anti-leftist rhetoric.

The handsome, well-mannered royal scion has campaigned with little rest for the last 15 days to woo the people away from the left and vote for the Congress and its alliance partners — Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura (INPT) and National Conference of Tripura (NCT).

His aide Tapas Dey, also a former Congress MLA, said: “His presence drew unprecedented crowds every place he visited”.

Many, specially the tribals who constitute 33 per cent of the total population, are emotionally attached to the magnificent Ujjayanta Palace, the seat of the last part of Manikya dynasty that ruled Tripura for 500 years. Tripura royals have been happy campaigners for the Congress. Kirit Pradyot Debbarman responded to the Congress call in every possible way, even helping out some candidates with logistics, to prevent the Left Front from forming its fifth successive government.

The INPT and NCT are contesting 12 of the 20 tribal reserved seats in the 60 member assembly. “I attended more than 80 election rallies though the party did not officially include me in the list of campaigners”, said Pradyot at the white palace.

He knows the emotional connect the people of Tripura have with the Manikya dynasty. “The Left Front government virtually did nothing in 20 years rule. The life of the people especially the tribals has not changed at all,” said Mr. Debbarman in a meeting in Kirshnapur in West Tripura.

The 35-year-old Debbarman has been the biggest crowd-puller in this election, sometimes surpassing the crowds that the CPI(M) organisational machinery could put together. Thousands lined up the roads in the rural part of the State he visited. Road shows and pit stops at remote villages are his specialty.

His father, late Maharaja Kirit Bikram Kishore Manikya, represented East Tripura Lok Sabha constituency thrice and his mother Rajmata Bibhu Kumari Devi held the same once. The talk in Congress circles is that Pradyot is eyeing the 2014 Lok Sabha election. He refused to speak about his political ambition before the assembly poll results are out. But his supporters are confident that the assembly results would be a springboard for bigger things for this former royal.

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