More than half of the total elected members of the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC), skipped the council’s biennial session Monday. The members’ decision to refrain from attending the autonomous body session has given rise to the speculation of a possible mass defection.
TTAADC has 28 elected members and two nominated members. Twelve among the elected members including the council’s Chairman and Chief executive Member (CEM) joined the session today while 16 others skipped the event.
The council’s ruling party CPI (M) has, however, denied the speculations and said that the session was held in their absentia since the members were delayed by an error in the security detail.
CPI (M), which was defeated by the BJP-IPFT coalition in Tripura’s 2018 assembly election, still rules the tribal district council with 27 out of 28 members. The only other MDC – Joykishore Jamatia, was elected with a CPI (M) ticket in 2014 but was expelled from the communist party due to immoral activities in 2017. He later joined BJP and has been the sole opposition voice in the council.
Speaking to indianexpress.com, TTAADC Chief Executive Member (CEM) Radhacharan Debbarma today said, “Traditionally, all council members come from Old Council Bhawan to current headquarters and they were given security escort. We presumed there would be no difference in custom this year as well. But when the members were on their way, they found no escort. The driver and liaison personnel declined to take the Executive Members without an escort. We contacted the police and the members got late in the process”.
He also said that the session started at 12 noon and continued for a short time. All the agendas were passed including Calling Attention Notice on service in hospitals, against passing Essential Services Maintenance Act in the Assembly, a notice on the degeneration of law and order and purported shortage of food and work in the state.
Asked if he feared the absent members were trying to join BJP, Radhacharan said he wasn’t aware of any such development but would not be surprised if BJP was indeed trying to win them over.
Twelve elected members of the TTAADC joined the session today including Chairman Ranjit Debbarma, CEM Radhacharan Debbarma and Joykishore Jamatia, the lone BJP MDC in the tribal council.
Speaking to reporters, Joykishore scoffed at the customs of the Council session and said, “Never has this happened before in the TTAADC where the session is in progress and the members including CEM or Chairman is absent. I have been present here (Khumulwng) from 10:30 this morning and there is no sign of anyone till 12”.
He added that he would report the incident to Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb.
TTAADC covers an area measuring 7,132.56 square km and covers nearly 68 per cent of the state’s geographical area. However, tribals comprise only one third of the state’s population of 37 lakh.
70 per cent of land under the TTAADC is covered by hills and forests and most inhabitants are prone to ‘jhum’ (slash and burn) cultivation.