Ending days of speculation, Pradyot Manikya Debbarma -- chief of Tripura’s tribal party Tipra Motha -- announced on Friday that his party would not be allying with any formation ahead of next month’s Assembly elections, without a written assurance accepting their demand for Greater Tipraland.
Both the BJP and Left-led alliance were keen on having Tipra Motha on board. The party had also negotiated with both sides, including a dialogue with Home Minister Amit Shah and Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma in Delhi.
“There will be no compromise on our demand. I can’t betray our cause and our people,” Mr. Debbarma said in a video message posted on his social media platform. He said that the only reason he and his party officials went to Delhi was to hear the government’s stand. “They didn’t give us anything in writing. So let me state this unequivocally: there will be no alliance in this election,” emphasised Mr. Debbarma. He added that Tipra Motha would announce the names of its own candidates for the election.
‘Carve out separate State’
The demand for Greater Tipraland includes the region under the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTADC) as well as 36 other villages within Tripura State boundaries. Tipra Motha is demanding that this area should be carved out as a separate State or a Union Territory. The TTADC currently receives 2% of the Tripura budget although it contains 40% of the State’s population, Mr. Debbarma claimed.
This demand was non-negotiable for any alliance, declared Mr. Debbarma. Many doubted him, he said, noting that it was only natural since many regional parties from Tripura had made trips to Delhi in the last 46 years, returning with some sort of agreement ahead of an election. But after the election, Tripura would get nothing, he said. “We shall fight this election to defeat those who are against our demand. Be ready, we may win or lose, but we shall have one last fight,” Mr. Debbarma asserted.
The Left was amenable to the demand, although their ally, the Congress, was uncomfortable with it, arguing that it would trigger similar demands in several other States.
May hurt BJP ally
There are 60 Assembly constituencies in poll-bound Tripura, of which nearly a third are reserved for candidates from Scheduled Tribes. In the 2018 elections, eight of these reserved seats were won by an ally of the BJP, the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT), while the BJP itself bagged 10 and the CPI(M) was left with the remaining two.
By contesting alone, Tipra Motha could affect IPFT’s electoral fortunes. IPFT’s average victory margin in the last Assembly election was nearly 5,000 votes. Tipra Motha, which recently won the Council election in the State, could dislodge IPFT, thus affecting the BJP.
However, a senior Left leader said that, ultimately, the electoral outcome was unlikely to be affected by Tipra Motha’s pitch. “Increasingly, the electorate doesn’t want to vote for people who have little or no chance at victory. With Tipra Motha’s decision to contest alone, it is very clear that they have no shot at power. Therefore the question is, will the people waste the vote on them,” said the leader.