In an unexpected and massive win, the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT) won eight of nine seats it contested in the state Assembly election on Saturday. It may also have put alliance leader BJP in a spot, with party president N C Debbarma stating soon after his victory from Takarjala seat that the demand for a separate state for Tripura’s tribals is “very much still on the table”.
Apprehensive that the demand for a separate state would alienate the majority Bengali electorate in the state, the BJP had earlier made IPFT scuttle its demand.
But Debbarma, who won with a massive margin of 12,652 votes, said, “The results have shown that our demand for a separate state is legitimate; this is what the tribal people of Tripura want. There is no question that we will continue our agitation for a separate state. There was no other issue electorally as far as we are concerned.”
He said, “We fought the election on the basis of this demand (separate state for tribals) and the people responded.”
Read | How Tripura was won
The IPFT won Ampinagar, Asharambari, Kanchanpur, Mandaibazar, Ramchandraghat, Raima valley, Simna and Takarjhala seats — all CPM strongholds until now.
A former director of All India Radio, Debbarma had revived the IPFT, founded in 1997, with a clear objective in 2009: a separate state of “Twipraland”. It contested the polls subsequently but failed to make any impact.
On Saturday, Debbarma said, “There is no other issue for us and, especially, for the tribal youth. As far as jobs are concerned — that is routine…it is nothing. It does not matter.”
He said, “Since we have had such a resounding victory, I guess we will have to be a part of the governance in Tripura and join the government. But even so, we will use the platform of the government to assert our right and demand for a separate state.”
The BJP, desperate to make inroads in Tripura’s tribal areas, relied heavily on the IPFT to take on the deep-entrenched political machinery of the CPM before the polls. The party offered the tribal outfit nine seats after ensuring that it will not entertain any demand for a separate state to be carved out of the Tripura Tribal Autonomous Areas District Council (TTAADC).
The IPFT was forced to put its demand for a separate state of ‘Twipraland’ on the backburner after BJP president Amit Shah declared at a press conference in Agartala that the BJP “does not support the idea of a separate Twipraland, and stands for a united Tripura’’.
But what ensured major gains for the BJP may also turn out to be its Achilles heel after government formation.
As Bijoy Kumar Hrangkhwal, president of INPT, another regional tribal party, said on Saturday, “What the BJP is saying is complete opposite of what the IPFT has demanded, and what N C Debbarma is saying (today). Let us see how this alliance works out. We believe this will be an unstable alliance and there will be trouble in the days ahead.”
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