Amid reports of clashes between workers of Tripura’s ruling alliance partners, the Indigenous Peoples Front of Tripura (IPFT) Monday accused the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of harassing its workers and threatened to look for “alternative ways” if the violence doesn’t end.
“BJP cadres are continuously attacking IPFT supporters since recently concluded Lok Sabha elections. We are very afraid and are being regularly harassed by our partners. It is unfortunate that we are being subjected to threats and assaults despite being an ally in government. This should stop,” IPFT spokesperson Mangal Debbarma said at a press conference on Monday evening.
In an oblique reference to a possible split in the alliance, Mangal further said his party would look for “alternative ways” if the violence doesn’t immediately end. When asked if the IPFT would walk out of the government, he said, “I don’t want to comment on it at this stage.”
Over 100 IPFT workers were injured in a series of assaults since Lok Sabha election results were announced on May 23, Debbarma claimed, adding that south Tripura’s Jolaibari sub-division, west Tripura’s Jampuijala sub-division, and north Tripura’s Sadar sub-division, along with Khowai and Dhalai districts are the worst hit by violent feuds between the alliance partners.
Debbarma alleged that the BJP was resorting to violence in a bid to erase IPFT’s hold over the hilly areas in Tripura.
“As of now, IPFT is the only party having existence in the hills of Tripura. BJP is trying to create its own support base there. They are thinking they don’t need IPFT anymore. They are trying to do politics alone by decimating IPFT in the hills. So, they are resorting to these clashes,” he said.
BJP spokesperson Dr Ashok Sinha denied the allegations saying the IPFT is trying to create pressure by issuing veiled threats on ending alliance.
“BJP doesn’t believe in the politics of violence. People are harassed due to political fights. Police has been mobilized. We believe this is a political ploy (of IPFT) to create pressure. We are acting responsibly,” Sinha said.
Meanwhile, senior BJP leader Nabendu Bhattacharya said his party welcomes IPFT’s decision to look for ‘alternative ways’. Declining to comment on the future of the alliance, Bhattacharya said, “All of us should look for alternative ways. We are looking for alternatives as well”.
The IPFT, floated in the late 1990s with demand of greater tribal autonomy and a separate state for tribals, resurfaced in 2009 under Narendra Chanda Debbarma, who is now revenue minister of the state. The party, since then, has been struggling on a single point agenda – Tipraland or a separate state for indigenous communities of Tripura.
Prior to 2018 assembly elections in the state, the BJP tied up with IPFT and swept the polls winning 44 out of 60 seats in the state legislative assembly. But 14 months after the two parties formed a coalition government, the IPFT is worried it might cede space to the BJP.
The tribal party had secured nearly 8 per cent vote share in 2018 assembly elections while its ally BJP skyrocketed from 1.5 per cent vote share in 2013 assembly polls to 43 per cent in 2018. The saffron surge continued in Lok Sabha polls as BJP bagged 49.30 per cent votes this year and won two Parliamentary constituencies for the first time in Tripura.