Antagonising the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), its junior ally IPFT on the night of Friday, 19 February, forged an alliance with another smaller tribal based parties to fight the upcoming polls to the tribal autonomous body.
Indigenous People's Front of Tripura (IPFT) President Narendra Chandra Debbarma and General Secretary Mevar Kumar Jamatia, both are ministers of the BJP-led council of ministers headed by Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb. They, however, said that they are still in coalition with the saffron party.
BJP spokesperson Nabendu Bhattacharjee told IANS on late Friday night that the IPFT did not share their decision with them.
"However, our senior leaders are discussing the latest political development," Bhattacharjee said.
Tripura royal scion Pradyot Bikram Manikya Deb Barman, who was earlier state President of Congress but subsequently quit the party in 2019, on Friday formed an alliance of a few tribal-based parties and named it TIPRA, The Indigenous Progressive Regional Alliance.
Deb Barman told the media that for the greater cause of the "Tipraland" (a territory for the tribals) they would fight together in the upcoming elections to the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC), a politically important constitutional body.
Barman, later on Friday evening, held a closed-door meeting with Debbarma, Jamatia and other senior IPFT leaders before he announced their decision to fight TTAADC polls together.
The IPFT leaders also told the media that they are still with the BJP-led government and part of BJP-floated regional body Northeast Democratic Alliance (NEDA). Assam Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma is its convener.
Political circles observed that the IPFT took the decision after the BJP leaders were delaying the allocation of a majority of the seats to field party (IPFT) candidates in the TTAADC elections likely to be held before 17 May. BJP leaders are also keen to contest a majority of the 28 TTAADC seats to strengthen their political base in the tribal areas.
The BJP in alliance with IPFT won the 2018 Assembly polls defeating the CPI(M)-led Left Front. In the 60-member Tripura Assembly, the BJP has 36 seats, the IPFT eight, and the CPI(M) has16.
Leaders of another tribal based anti-BJP party – Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura (INPT) – also announced they would maintain their alliance with the coalition floated by Pradyot Bikram Manikya Deb Barman.
The IPFT has been agitating since 2009 for the creation of a separate state by upgrading the TTAADC, which has jurisdiction over two-thirds of Tripura's 10,491 sq km area and home to over 12,16,000 people, 90 percent of whom are tribals. The IPFT's demand, however, is strongly opposed by all the major parties including the BJP, the CPI(M) and the Congress.
The five-year tenure of the TTAADC expired on 17 May 2020, following which the state government promulgated Governor's rule and appointed a retired IAS officer as administrator the next day for a period of six months. The term was extended for another six months on 17 November.