Tripura Chief Minister Manik Saha on February 2 said development with a special focus on the overall uplift of indigenous people will the main poll plank of the BJP-Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT) combine in the ensuing election to the north-eastern State’s Assembly.
In an interview to PTI, he also decried the ‘Greater Tipraland’ demand espoused by rival Tipra Motha party floated by the scion of the former royal family of the tribal State – Pradyot Manikya DebBarma.
Mr. Saha who became the Chief Minister of the State replacing Biplab Kumar Deb just nine months before the crucial elections, claimed that the party will get a comfortable majority in the election and will form the next government on its own strength. The BJP is contesting in 55 seats in the 60-member Assembly and has left five seats for its ally IPFT, which has been hamstrung by defections to another trib; party- Tipra Motha.
"During the electioneering, the party leaders right from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Union Home Minister Amit Shah to party national president J. P. Nadda — all will focus on the development that the State witnessed before and after 2018. Be it people’s welfare or connectivity or women empowerment, the present government did a lot for the State’s overall development", he told PTI.
Claiming that the BJP-IPFT government has done “phenomenal work” for women, the doctor-turned-politician said the 12 women candidates put up by the BJP, will be the largest number of women to be fielded for Tripura Assembly elections by any party till date.
"We have fielded 12 candidates in the ensuing elections which is an all-time record in the State’s political history so far. Besides, women engagement through Self Help Groups (SHGs) has been improved significantly", Mr. Saha told PTI.
On the resentment over nomination of party candidates in some areas, the CM said it is quite natural because seats are limited compared to the number of aspirants.
"In politics, one needs to be patient. History is the witness that those who are restless do not succeed. Sometimes, politicians need to go for adjustment as one does when on a battle ground", he said refusing to make any change in the list of candidates announced by his party.
Mr. Saha, who came as a surprise choice for the Chief Minister’s berth in May, said he has been able to gain the people’s faith in just a few months. "Wherever I go, I see people are happy as they have received several benefits from PMAY to piped water to toilets under several flagship programmes. (However) I do believe there is a need to do more in the employment generation segment", he said.
"The overall law and order has improved in the State over the past five years with all types of crime — murder, rape and abduction — coming down drastically. The National Crime Records Bureau reports endorsed our view on the law-and-order situation", he said, adding the Opposition’s allegation on it is baseless.
The Chief Minister strongly disapproved of Tipra Motha’s 'Greater Tipraland' slogan, terming it as an effort to play “with tribal people’s sentiment”.
"Tribals are often being misled by the political parties with slogans like Tipraland and Greater Tipraland. It is not clear what are the markers of Greater Tiprland or its geography. Will it cross the State’s boundary or nation’s border? They want a constitutional solution and that too in writing! Who are they to ask for written assurance for Greater Tipraland?", he asked.
The Chief Minister said those who had raised slogans against another community (Bengalis) are now trying to get back their support by welcoming them but it will not work as it expects.
"They have to understand, it is the Prime Minister, who could do something for them and not anyone else. Our Prime Minister is really generous when it comes to tribal welfare. As many as five tribal leaders have got Padma Shri in the past five years. This is a great recognition to indigenous people", he said.
"The kind of people’s love we saw during filing of nominations, the party will surely secure a comfortable majority in the election and form the next government on its own strength”, he said.
Mr. Saha claimed that the BJP will win 40 to 41 seats on its own. In the 2013 Assembly election the BJP had secured only 1.8% vote. In 2018 the BJP got 44% votes and bagged 36 seats while its ally IPFT got 7% votes and secured eight seats.
Asked if he would continue as Chief Minister after the elections, the 70-year old politician made it clear, "It is the party and Modiji who will make the choice. If they think I am the man for the work, I will be picked.... I always prefer to play on a straight bat".
On the unfinished commitments, Mr. Saha said he will take up the issue of the High Power Modality Committee constituted to look into the socio-economic-linguistic development of the State’s indigenous people as part of Common Minimum Programme (CMP) between the BJP and IPFT before the 2018 Assembly election with Delhi. The Union Home Ministry has constituted a high power modality committee but the recommendations of the panel have not been made public yet.