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Mainstream, VOL 61 No 11, March 11, 2023

TIPRALand was a ruse to surreptitiously help the BJP in Tripura polls | Faraz Ahmad

Saturday 11 March 2023, by Faraz Ahmad


The cat is out of the bag, TIPRA Motha chief Pradyot Manikya Debbarma, whose electoral debut helped the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) barely scrape through the recently held Tripura Assembly elections and resume power for a second five-year term, has offered the much need support of his 13 MLAs to the Manik Saha led BJP government.

BJP had won 32 seats in a 60-member House including that won by Pratima Bhoumik, a Union minister, also projected by the BJP, during the campaign, as a chief ministerial candidate. Besides the BJP fielded Bhoumik from Dhanpur Assembly constituency, a traditional CPM stronghold mainly because the saffron party realised that the current crop of BJP legislators were unfit to contest against a Left-Congress alliance in Dhanpur. But now that the party has settled for Manik Saha, Bhoumik is not likely to remain in the Tripura Assembly and is slated to resign her MLA seat, while retaining her MP seat and Union ministry. That means the BJP’s precarious strength in the House will come down to 31 and once the speaker is elected from among the party MLAs, the ruling party would be left only with 30 MLAs just half the strength and not even a simple majority in the House.

That’s where Debbarma, who all along swore equidistance from the Congress-Communist Left alliance and the saffron brigade, insisting that he is here only for TIPRA land, rushed in to support the BJP led government. Now with 13 TIPRA MLAs added to 32 of BJP-IPFT alliance, the government is stable and in more than comfortable position. As for the supposed demand of greater autonomy for the tribal areas on the pattern of regional autonomy granted to Darjeeling Hill region of West Bengal, while Debbarma announced his support for the BJP led Tripura government in Delhi after meeting Union Home Minister Amit Shah and claiming Shah had conceded all their demands, the newly appointed BJP chief minister in the state, Manik Saha reacted sharply to the news in Agartala and rejected outright Debbarma’s demand for a ‘Greater Tipra Land. Instead he promised more development of the tribal region. It’s not the first time Saha has spoken against Debbarma’s TIPRA autonomy. Even during the election campaign Saha had emphatically stated that the idea of Greater TIPRA land was not feasible and that’s why Debbarma’s negotiations with the BJP leadership in Delhi failed in the runup to the Assembly elections. That is when he turned to the Congress-Left alliance who had promised to look seriously and try to work out some constitutional solution to the vexatious issue. But even as Debbarma kept reassuring that being an ex-Congress leader, he was primarily inclined towards the Congress-Left alliance, he kept his cards of playing a spoilsport for the anti BJP forces, close to his chest.

As for the BJP, saying one thing in Delhi and announcing exactly the opposite in Agartala should not come as a surprise to any political observer keeping a watch on BJP’s opportunist treatment of the North-Eastern hilly states. The BJP speaks with a forked tongue on such contentious issues, be it Tripura, Nagaland or Meghalaya. And yet the people there seem to be trusting the saffron party whose ideological position is at complete variance to the demands of the people of North East.

Analysts had already described Debbarma and his party only in Lalu Yadav’s terminology Vote Katwa. So as far as the BJP is concerned Debbarma has successfully completed the task assigned to him, to prevent the Opposition from capitalising on the five year, corrupt, violent and unpopular rule of the BJP in that state. He has faithfully delivered the BJP government to MoSha (Modi-Amit Shah) and can naturally be expected to be rewarded, not necessarily in terms of his lofty demands on paper. By the time the next round of elections approach, these parties will again raise the pitch, confuse the gullible voter, dent the real opposition vote and help the BJP to return to power.

One such force is the All India Majlise Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) of Asaduddin Owaisi and his family members, with a strong base in Muslim areas of Hyderabad city. But close to a decade the AIMIM has been attempting to spread its wings in other Muslim pockets as well with some visible success in Maharashtra and then in Bihar. Later of course all the AIMIM MLAs who won from Seemanachal region of Bihar recently joined the RJD which has traditionally enjoyed support in that region.

But Owaisi too has raised a pertinent question reminding how his party has been dubbed as a B team of BJP. He pointed out while he has been condemned thus, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) led by Sharad Pawar has been playing footsie with the BJP and yet none of the secular parties dare question him. Owaisi tweeted, “If Sharad was Shadab (presumably a Muslim), he’d be called B team (of BJP) and be an untouchable for the ‘seculars’. I’ve never supported the BJP and never will but this is the second time NCP supported the BJP and it may not be the last.” Owaisi referred to the seven NCP MLAs who won in Nagaland and immediately ran to support the BJP-led government in the newly constituted assembly in Kohima.

Owaisi also reminded how the BJP had jailed NCP cabinet minister in Maharashtra and party spokesman Nawab Malik and yet the NCP is supporting the BJP government in Nagaland. Sure that’s a point to ponder over.

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