With the Left Front and Congress coming together, there was some expectation that it would dent the larger social coalition shaped by the BJP in Tripura. Like almost everywhere else, the BJP has been attempting to shape a ‘Hindu coalition’ by attracting all sections of the Hindu community.
What is hidden in its current success, however, is the limitation of this effort. In fact, Tripura witnessed a three-way division of the voters on community lines: the non-tribal Hindus voting mostly for the BJP; the Adivasis voting primarily for the Tipra Motha party; and Muslims voting for the Left-Congress alliance (Table 1).
More than half of the upper caste voters and Scheduled Caste voters chose the BJP, while almost two in every three Other Backward Class (OBC) voter polled in its favour. In a State where Adivasis account for almost one-third of the total population, the inability of the BJP to attract these votes was the main obstacle in its dream of posting a sweeping victory. This limitation will also become a major hurdle for the BJP in formulating policies that would satisfy the State’s Adivasi population and meet its demands.
With handsome support from the Adivasis, the Tipra Motha has emerged as their main spokesperson. While almost one in every two Hindu upper caste voter and close to two in every three OBC voter think that the BJP is a better option for protecting their interests, an overwhelming majority of 93% Adivasis thinks similarly of the Tipra Motha (Table 2).
This also indicates the fracture in the Tripura society and the difficulty in reconciling the interests of the Adivasis and rest of the BJP’s Hindu supporters. Voters of Tripura are divided over the question of Greater Tipraland. While close to three-fourth voters are aware of this demand, support for the same comes almost exclusively from the Adivasis of the State — over 90% fully support the demand, and among upper castes, OBCs and Scheduled Castes (SC), there is considerable opposition to it (Table 3).
This is reflected in the voting choice of different communities, with supporters of Greater Tipraland mostly voting for the Tipra Motha, while the opponents were split between the BJP and the Left-Congress alliance (Table 4).
The 9% Muslims of the Tripura population are unable to see either the BJP or the Tipra Motha as their ally. As a result, they remain isolated and without much political energy in State politics. The entry of Tipra Motha has changed the political landscape of the Tripura by clearly pitting the Adivasis against the non-Adivasis of the State.
Suhas Palshikar taught political science and is chief editor of Studies in Indian Politics.