Rift between Tripura’s ruling alliance partners Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Indigenous Peoples Front of Tripura (IPFT) resurfaced when the latter held a 24-hour strike on Thursday at Khumulwng, the headquarters of the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC), 25 km from here, over the arrest of a party worker.
The IPFT has blamed the BJP for the arrest of Pradip Debbarma, president of Indigenous Motor Workers Union (IMWU), a frontal organization of the tribal party, on July 6 on charges of arson at a BJP party office in the vicinity last month.
Speaking to reporters at the protest venue, MLA and IPFT leader Brishaketu Debbarma said, “We are holding the strike against the arrest of Pradip Debbarma in a false case. He is now in judicial custody. We demand his release. He is innocent and an active supporter of our party. We feel this arrest was politically engineered”.
Debbarma also said the BJP is yet to deliver on the promises it made ahead of the 2018 Tripura assembly elections. “They said they would solve 1032 teachers’ problems. What happened? They said they have done development in ADC areas. Do they come here? Tomorrow they might say they will pluck the moon from the sky. But if BJP imagines running the government in Tripura by destroying IPFT, it will turn out to be an impossible dream”.
IPFT won eight seats in the 60-seat Tripura assembly in 2018 and formed government in alliance with the BJP that had bagged 36 seats on its own. The tribal party was given two berths in the 12-member state cabinet, in which only nine seats are filled now. The two berths are now held by IPFT president NC Debbarma and general secretary Mevar Kumar Jamatia.
The alliance partners were earlier engaged in a series of violent clashes with each other over nomination of Block Advisory Committee (BAC) chairmen and executive positions of ADC village committee among other things. The state government later blamed the Opposition CPIM for hatching a “conspiracy” by creating “misunderstanding” between allies.
Speaking to this correspondent, party spokesperson Nabendu Bhattacharya said an office of his party was burnt down last month near Khumulwng, a day before 400 people were supposed to join the saffron fold. An FIR was registered against a few miscreants from the locality, he said, but said Pradip Debbarma, whose arrest has triggered the strike today, is not among the accused.
“We did not accuse him in our FIR. Police arrested him based on their own findings. How is our party involved in this? Besides, top IPFT leaders are part of our government. If they blame our government, they are also blaming themselves. Let the agitating leaders straighten things out in their own party with their leaders,” Bhattacharya said.
An official of Tripura Police said nearly a thousand IPFT supporters gathered at Khumulwng since 6 am to take part in the strike. “There was no major law and order situation but normal life was affected due to the strike. There is sufficient police deployment in the area,” the official said.
On May 17, the Tripura cabinet dissolved the incumbent executive committee of the TTAADC as its tenure was to end without polls that could not take place due to the lockdown.
The district council’s charge was handed over to Governor Ramesh Bais, who would hold charge till the next election.
The state’s tribal council was formed as per the TTAADC Act, 1979 under the provisions of 7th Schedule of the Constitution and was later upgraded with provisions under the 6th Schedule. It governs 68 per cent of Tripura’s geographical area, crisscrossing through all eight districts and is home to nearly 30 percent of the state’s population.
TTAADC has 30 seats, out of which 28 are elected and rest two are nominated by the Governor. In January this year, then state legislative Assembly unanimously resolved to increase the number of seats in the Tripura ADC from 30 to 50 in a bid to elevate the status of the tribal council.
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