Saha in the saddle: On the road ahead for the Tripura Chief Minister  

The Chief Minister must deal with post-poll violence and address the demand for Greater Tipraland

Updated - March 09, 2023 12:24 pm IST

Published - March 09, 2023 12:20 am IST

A new Council of Ministers led by the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Manik Saha took oath in Tripura on Wednesday. The 70-year-old doctor turned politician replaced Biplab Deb at the helm of the government in May 2022, as course correction by the BJP ahead of the Assembly polls. Things worked out well and the party has won, albeit with fewer seats. Dr. Saha continues to be Chief Minister into a second term, ending speculation about Union Minister Pratima Bhoumik being in contention. Ms. Bhoumik is likely to vacate the Assembly seat that she won and continue at the Centre. The BJP has retained four Ministers and inducted three new faces from its ranks, which includes Bikash Debbarma, the head of the party’s Scheduled Tribe Morcha. The party’s ally, the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT), which was significantly diminished but won a seat, saw Sukla Charan Noatia getting a berth. In the 60-member Assembly, the Council can have 12 members, and three berths are now vacant. The BJP is reportedly in talks with the Tipra Motha, a relatively new party that made an impressive debut with 13 seats, all won from the tribal regions of the State. It is possible that the BJP and the Tipra Motha could enter into an alliance.

The BJP’s victory in Tripura came after decades of quiet work undertaken by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-affiliated organisations, which led to the defeat of the Left Front in 2018. The importance that the party attaches to the State was evident yet again going by the presence of its top leadership, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in Agartala on Wednesday. The party’s second consecutive electoral victory reinforces it in the border State, but new challenges have arisen. The new government has the immediate task of calming the violence that has followed the election results. The State has also witnessed a sharpening of the division between its tribal and non-tribal population, which the BJP has benefited from. The Tipra Motha’s campaign for a separate Greater Tipraland, which includes all what is now the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC) area, has created a new fault line. The demand draws from the fear that demographic changes are leading to the increasing marginalisation of indigenous communities in Tripura. During the tenure of the last government, the internally displaced Bru community was enfranchised, bringing closure to a festering conflict in the northeast. Dr. Saha has to hit the ground running and watch over his shoulder for potential challenges to his authority.

To read this editorial in Hindi, click here.

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To read this editorial in Tamil, click here.

To read this editorial in Telugu, click here.

To read this editorial in Malayalam, click here.

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