The tussle for the tribal vote has taken another turn in Tripura, with royal scion Pradyot Kishore Debbarman calling on the IPFT, the other big tribal outfit in the state, to join hands with it.
The appeal by the TIPRA Motha chief, to the Indigenous Peoples Front of Tripura, came a day after more than a thousand people from their two outfits joined the BJP on Monday. The IPFT is an ally of the BJP, but relations between the two have been rocky as the BJP tries to make inroads into the tribal vote on its own.
“Those who don’t want to join the Motha and are going from the IPFT to join other parties… I want to tell the Youth Tipra Federation to explain to them (the need) to get together. I want to tell the IPFT to join us,” Debbarman said, adding that the demands of the TIPRA Motha and IPFT were similar. “What’s the point of raising the same demand from separate parties? Let’s join and become one party. Everyone will get something,” he said in a video message on social media.
Monday’s development was a big blow to the TIPRA (Tripura Indigenous Peoples Regional Alliance) Motha, which made an impressive debut by sweeping the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous Development Council (TTAADC) polls last year, barely three months after Debbarman formed the party. The TIPRA Motha was floated with representatives from almost all tribal parties in the state.
In the video message, Debbarman, a former Congress leader, also issued an appeal to tribal leaders of other parties such as the BJP and CPM to unite for the tribal cause.
IPFT leaders declined to comment on Debbarman’s call for unity.
Welcoming the 1,045 members of the Motha and IPFT into the BJP fold on Monday, Union Minister of State for Social Empowerment and Justice Pratima Bhoumik accused the Motha of misleading tribals with its Greater Tipraland slogan.
Addressing a rally at Mandwi, 30 km from Agartala, she alleged “persistent efforts” in tribal areas to halt development and to malign the BJP-led state government. The BJP alone had given tribals respect and dignity, she said.
Bhoumik said the Motha was actually helping the CPM, and asked why the Greater Tipraland demand hadn’t been raised before the BJP came to power.
In an oblique attack on Bhoumik for her comments Tuesday, Debbarman said: “Beware of leaders who create fear… Please understand that our demand is for the indigenous people but not against anyone.” He challenged the Union minister to debate the matter with him on live TV.
In a video message posted on social media Monday, Debbarma alleged “a propaganda to separate us from each other”. “We never said you (the non-tribals) would be sent to Bangladesh, or that you would not be allowed to live in peace.”
Debbaraman’s ‘Greater Tipraland’ demand seeks to include every tribal person in the proposed state, including those living outside the TTAADC areas, besides providing support to ‘Tiprasa’ or Tripuris in other states like Assam, Mizoram etc and those living in the bordering areas of Bangladesh through a development council.
This goes beyond the IPFT’s demand of Tipraland, which seeks a separate state for the tribals of Tripura.