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BJP’s Extreme Choices

Alliances in Tripura and J&K have forced both sides to nuance their agendas

Written by Shivam Shankar Singh | Updated: February 18, 2018 8:58 am
tripura election 2019, cpim, communist party of india marxist, bjp tripura, northeast, tripura assembly polls, agartala, left parties, prakash karat, manik sarkar, indian express BJP has entered into an alliance with the IPFT, a party that seeks a separate state for tribals. (Express Photo by Abhinav Saha)

Tripura goes to polls on February 18. Several alliances have been forged between national and regional parties in the state. The most discussed alliance, however, is a contentious seat-sharing arrangement between the BJP and the Indigenous Peoples Front of Tripura (IPFT). The BJP has declared candidates for 51 seats while the IPFT will contest the remaining nine seats in the 60-member assembly.

The move is contentious because the IPFT became a formidable force in the state’s politics by organising mass agitations and road blockades to further its demand for carving out a separate state for the tribals of Tripura called Tipraland. The CPM-led Left Front government of Tripura has made criticism of the alliance a cornerstone of its campaign in the state. The CPM campaign focuses on the message that the BJP has allied with a party that wants to break the state and that people of the state must not vote for the BJP-IPFT combine because it will lead to a deterioration of peace in Tripura.

The BJP also received some criticism from its own supporters in other parts of the country as they found it difficult to comprehend why a party that holds nationalism as the core of its ideology would ally with a party that espouses separatist ideas in any form, be it separatism within a state or separatism from the nation. The pessimistic perspective is that the alliance is a move to win the election and the ideology of nationalism has been put aside to further political purposes. The BJP faced similar criticism when it forged an alliance with the PDP to form the coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir. Congress leaders as well as supporters of both the BJP and PDP said the alliance proved that ideology took a backseat in the quest for power.

However, close observation of the dynamics in the alliances between the BJP and regional parties that supported an ideology contrary to the spirit of nationalism, reveals that these often strengthen national unity while also leading to the socio-economic and cultural development of demographic segments that were alienated from the Indian mainstream.

The tribals of Tripura have supported IPFT’s demand for a separate tribal state because they have been denied their due share in the state’s development. Over the past 25 years of left rule in the state, the government has failed to develop basic infrastructure in the tribal areas. Poverty amongst tribals is so acute that every year there are reports in the mainstream media of tribal families selling infants for as little as Rs 200. Healthcare and education are in a shambles. Though the CPM treats the tribals as their core vote, development has eluded them. This deprivation led to the movement for a separate state.

The alliance benefits both the BJP and the IPFT. While the BJP gains tribal votes, the IPFT gets a foothold in the state’s politics. More importantly, the society as a whole benefits from such an alliance. The tribals, marginalised until now, gain representation and voice in the running of the state and the BJP leadership becomes more acutely aware of the problems faced by marginalised communities. This could lead to a better and more equitable governance in the state.

The BJP-PDP alliance in Kashmir is often under grave stress due to a divergence of opinion between the two parties. But it has achieved a lot in the short period since it was forged. The PDP, which was known to sympathise with separatists in the state, now has to maintain a more balanced stance due to its alliance with a nationalistic BJP. The BJP, which many believed would only focus on a militaristic solution to the longstanding issues in Kashmir, is taking a more nuanced approach to the problems in the Valley.

When alliances force polar opposite ideologies to work together, they also cause the development of a middle path towards solving issues. Several complicated problems that India faces need a middle path for

The writer, a senior research fellow at India Foundation, handles data analytics for the BJP’s poll campaigns in the Northeast

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  1. R
    RAVI K
    Feb 15, 2018 at 10:46 am
    Author is defending undependable. Alliance in J K happened after fighting election separately and if one looks at PDP's election campaign anyone can see they got seats due to their radical stand and anti incumbency of earlier government . So the alliance between two extreme views was for sharing power and nothing else. And the increase in unrest in valley and complete failure of the cur government to improve the situation is the proof this unholy opportunistic alliance is not accepted by the people of kashmir. But on the contrary author concludes that it helped to find middle ground which is blatantly covering reality. Same strategy for Tripura . In short in bollywood anology 'Hum kare to rasleela aur tum karo to character dheela ' is the strategy of BJP , the party with difference.
    1. S
      Feb 15, 2018 at 8:45 am
      You are all part of tukde tukde gang out to divide India.
      1. Krishna Mittal
        Feb 15, 2018 at 5:12 am
        Surely BJP person has to defend ,but how good is defence and how convincing. In national interest votes may be forgotten. It is difficult to criticize this government without getting brick bats ,so government is very good. Congress is trying half heartedly to revive. Indian voters are far better than so good intellectual and take right decision and choose appropriate party to govern.
        1. Feb 15, 2018 at 3:50 am
          I wish to see - someday, media talking about the gain and loss to people and country if one party wins and another looses. When will we discuss what BJP/Congress/AAP etc will bring to us? When will we discuss what are their committment to us? How they will make our life better?
          1. D
            Dear Govt.
            Feb 15, 2018 at 1:05 am
            Your India Foundation research fellow, has, towards the end of the article, by citing "discovery of middle ground" as one of the benefits of polar opposite ideologies coming together, tried to brush up the references to "hypocrisy" in a nationalistic party tying up with separatist forces which he has written about in the 90 of the article. Weak and self-contradictory opinion from the author.
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