TIPRA Motha of royal scion Pradyot Debbarma has emerged as the second largest party by securing 13 seats with a vote share of 19.7% in the recently held assembly elections in the Northeastern state of Tripura.
The Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP)-led alliance returned to power for the second time, although with a thin majority. BJP won 32 seats while its ally Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura(IPFT) was able to win a lone seat. The Opposition Left-Congress alliance was able to garner 14 seats — and out of these, CPM obtained 11 while the grand old party managed to achieve only 3.
The Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP)-led alliance returned to power in Tripura for the second time, although with a thin majority.
Motha supremo has said that his party for now isn’t joining the government until and unless the party’s demands are fulfilled.
Motha knows that in the quick rise and fall of IPFT, there is a clear message from the electorate.
Its demand for Greater Tipraland is opposed by BJP, CPM, and Congress. However, some of its demands like the transfer of funds to the TTAADC directly by the Centre are agreed upon by BJP and CPM.
Is Motha Softening Its Stand Towards the BJP?
On Wednesday, Home Minister Amit Shah held talks with Pradyot. In this meeting, other dignitaries like BJP National President JP Nadda, North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) Convenor, and Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and Tripura Chief Minister Manik Saha were also present.
Later, Pradyot in a press conference said that Shah has agreed to appoint an interlocutor to initiate the dialogue to look into Motha’s constitutional demand for the tribal communities of the state. He thanked Shah for understanding the issues of the tribals of the state.
Motha supremo has said that his party for now isn’t joining the government until and unless the party’s demands are fulfilled. On the other hand, he earlier had said that his party would sit in the Opposition separately and won’t sit together with the CPM-Congress.
If one looks at the developments, one can see that Pradyot has taken a soft stand towards the saffron party which has offered Motha to join the government.
The new BJP government has left three ministerial posts vacant — a message from the saffron party appealing to Motha to join the government. Ahead of the elections, Pradyot repeatedly said that his party would emerge as the kingmaker but this didn’t happen.
There is dissatisfaction on the ground among the supporters as the party failed to be the kingmaker. But the quick rise of IPFT and its quick fall also forces Motha to rethink before taking any decision on joining the government. This has left the Motha in a dilemma of whether to join the government or sit in the Opposition.
IPFT’s Decline Carries a Message for Motha
Months ahead of the 2018 elections, IPFT rose to prominence and even held an 11-day blockade for the demand for a separate Tipraland. That was done with the blessings of the BJP to create an anarchy-like situation in the state to malign the image of the then Manik Sarkar-led CPM government.
This became clear when the BJP later allied with the IPFT of the late NC Debbarma which played the key role in bringing the NDA to power.
But later the party slowed down on its Tipraland demand as it was busy enjoying the fruits of the power. This time the IPFT’s seat tally dropped to 1 from 8 and its vote share fell to a meagre 1.26% from 7.38%. IPFT's current head Prem Kumar Reang, holding the post of working president, also lost badly from the Kanchanpur (ST) seat. He stood fourth in the contest.
Prem Kumar was also the cabinet minister in the last Saha-led BJP government.
Motha knows that in the quick rise and fall of IPFT, there is a clear message from the electorate. That’s the reason Pradyot has been citing the example of IPFT and saying that his party will think of joining the government only after the party’s demands are fulfilled.
Motha’s Appeal Didn’t Resonate With Whole of Tribal Community
TIPRA Motha once again has emerged as the dominant player in the tribal belt. In fact in Takarjala (ST), it secured a huge 86.81% of votes. Apart from Takarjala, the party secured more than 60% of votes in constituencies like Simna (ST), Mandaibazar (ST), Ramchandraghat (ST) and Asharambari (ST).
However, the elections also revealed that the party’s appeal hasn’t resonated with all the tribals. In the 20 ST seats, the average vote of Motha is 45.29%. The average vote of the BJP-IPFT alliance in the ST seats is 29.09% while the average figure for Left-Congress is 21.55%.
This shows that despite the Motha wave, the BJP-led NDA has been able to retain its base in comparison to the last ADC elections of 2021. On the other hand, the Left seems to have not only retained its base but also has been able to marginally increase its votes in comparison to the last ADC polls.
Significantly, the Chief Executive Member (CEM) of Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC), ruled by TIPRA Motha, Purna Chandra Jamatia lost to BJP’s Rampada Jamatia who was the tribal affairs minister in the last Saha-led government from the Bagma (ST) seat.
BJP secured 38.74% votes while Motha got 34.6% votes. CPM’s Naresh Jamatia, a former state minister bagged 25.08% votes. Even at the height of the Motha wave, the CEM of ADC lost his seat to BJP as a sizeable portion of the anti-BJP vote went into CPM’s account. This clearly indicates that not all tribals are supporters of Motha.
The history of the state says that the tribal parties lost their relevance after having a peak in their career. They have failed to keep the momentum for a long period in the past. This makes the road ahead of Motha a challenging one.
It has the onus to fulfil the promises it had made to its voters. Its demand for Greater Tipraland is opposed by BJP, CPM, and Congress. However, some of its demands like the transfer of funds to the TTAADC directly by the Centre are agreed upon by BJP and CPM — in fact in their election manifestos, both the parties have promised "for greater autonomy of the tribal body".
(Sagarneel Sinha is a political commentator and tweets @SagarneelSinha. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed are the author's own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for his reported views.)