Barely 24 hours after the Tripura results were declared, giving the BJP-IPFT alliance a thumping majority in the state, there were first signs of a fissure. The BJP’s tribal ally, the IPFT (Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura), demanded that the next Chief Minister of the state should be a tribal.
The demand came even as Tripura BJP chief Biplab Deb, touted to be the next CM, took out a victory road show through his Assembly constituency, Banamalipur in Agartala, accompanied by his wife and thousands of supporters.
IPFT president N C Debbarma made the demand for a tribal CM at a meeting at the press club, which was reportedly called without the knowledge of its ally BJP.
Debbarma said, “The outcome of the elections, the thumping majority that the BJP and IPFT got, would have simply not been possible without the tribal vote. We won the elections because of our victory in the reserved ST constituencies… Keeping in mind the sentiments of the tribal voters, it is only fair that the leader of the Assembly be one of the winning candidates of an ST constituency. And of course whoever is the leader of the House will naturally be the Chief Minister.”
When asked specifically about Biplab Deb, the IPFT leader said, “I do not want to make any comments about Biplab Deb.”
Debbarma added that he was not indicating which tribal leader should be nominated CM and that the decision could only be taken after discussions.
BJP Tripura in-charge Sunil Deodhar said he was unaware about Debbarma’s statement. “I have not seen this press conference. He has given his opinion. We are meeting IPFT leaders Monday morning and we will discuss the matter.”
CPM and Congress leaders said they were not surprised. “What the BJP and IPFT said in their election campaigns was contradictory. Throughout the elections, the IPFT maintained that it was fighting the election for separate statehood. Meanwhile the BJP said it did not support the statehood demand and wanted to see a united Tripura. This will be an unstable alliance,” said Congress vice-president Tapas Dey.
Tribal leader and CPM MP Jitendra Choudhury said, “This honeymoon (between the BJP and IPFT) will be short-lived. It is what happens when you form an alliance with a separatist political group for short-term electoral gains. The only reason why the IPFT continues with its stance is because it has received assurances from the PMO. Of course, there will never be a separate state, Tripura is sensitive geographically and strategically. Let the tribal youth now realise how hollow these promises were.”
Soon after the results were declared too, Debbarma had reiterated the IPFT demand for a separate state for tribals or “Twipraland”. “We have had a single-agenda campaign — the demand for a separate state. Even as part of the government we will continue this demand. As a matter of fact, we will intensify our stir,” he had told The Indian Express soon after the results were declared.