Other States

Debbarma returns as Minister in Manik Saha’s Cabinet

Narendra Chandra Debbarma caught everyone’s attention as Chief Minister Manik Saha’s new Cabinet member in Agartala on Monday.

Narendra Chandra Debbarma caught everyone’s attention as Chief Minister Manik Saha’s new Cabinet member in Agartala on Monday. | Photo Credit: PTI

Narendra Chandra Debbarma, president of the Indigenous Peoples Front of Tripura (IPFT), the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) coalition partner, caught everyone’s attention at his oath-taking as a Cabinet Minister here on Monday. The octogenarian leader, who recently fought off his baiters and retained his position in the party, held a magnifying glass in one hand to read the paper with the oath of allegiance in the other.

Mr. Debbarma, who hasn’t been keeping well over the past year and has spent a few months in hospital, remains at the epicentre of tribal politics despite his frail health.

In Chief Minister Manik Saha new Cabinet, he not only ensured his place, but also prevailed on the BJP leadership to drop his sworn opponent, Mevar Kumar Jamatia, who held the important Forest and Tribal Welfare portfolios in the previous Biplab Kumar Deb council. Mr. Deb resigned, making way for Dr. Saha’s chief ministership.

Mr. Jamatia had pulled off a coup by replacing Mr. Debbarma as IPFT president last month. But the veteran leader fought back and regained the post in an extraordinary meeting of the party's State executive committee recently.

Mr. Debbarma had Mr. Jamatia replaced by his [Mr. Debbarma’s] close aide Prem Kumar Reang in the new Council of Ministers. Mr. Reang was sworn-in as the Council’s second IPFT Minister.

Mr. Debbarma alleged that Mr. Jamatia had hatched a conspiracy to merge the IPFT with the Tipraha Indigenous Progressive Regional Alliance (TIPRA), headed by the State’s royal scion, Pradyot Kishore Debbarman. “We will not abolish the party (IPFT) nor will we leave the alliance with the BJP,” he confirmed on Monday.

The former Director of All India Radio’s Agartala station did not join electoral politics till he retired from government service, but remained relevant in the State’s tribal politics for over 50 years as an ideologue and in advisory roles.

The demand for ‘Tipraland’, a separate State for Tripura’s indigenous population, was his brainchild, though some tribal groups blame him for erasing it by forging an alliance with the BJP ahead of 2018 Assembly elections.

Despite criticism, he retains his relevance in Tripura’s politics. Even the head of the now very strong TIPRA, Mr. Debbarman, understood this and made futile efforts to bring him into his party’s fold.

New Council takes oath

Dr. Saha on Monday inducted 11 new Ministers a day after he took oath as Chief Minister. Two new faces — one from the BJP and the other from its coalition partner, the IPFT, have been made Ministers.

All Ministers of Mr. Deb’s Council, except Mr. Jamatia, have been retained. The BJP expanded its presence by including Ram Pada Jamatia, while Mr. Reang replaced Mr. Jamatia.

The BJP has 10 Ministers in the 12-member Council, including the Chief Minister, while the IPFT has two. Mr. Deb’s Council had 11 Ministers.

Importantly, the new Council has representation from four major indigenous clans — Tripuri, Bru (Reang), Jamatia, and Chakma.

Santana Chakma continues to be the lone woman Minister in Tripura.

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Printable version | Jun 30, 2022 2:04:02 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/debbarma-returns-as-minister-in-manik-sahas-cabinet/article65419179.ece