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After Assam, BJP-IPFT Alliance Turns Bitter in Tripura

After neighbouring Assam, the relation between the ruling BJP and its junior ally Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT) turned bitter ahead of the April 4 elections to the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC), which is considered as the mini-state Assembly in terms of political significance.

Both the BJP and the IPFT are yet to finalise their seat-sharing in the 28-member TTAADC and even the leaders of the two parties are acusing each other on the issue.

The much-awaited elections to the TTAADC will be held on April 4 and the statutory notifications would be issued on Thursday.

In alliance with the tribal-based party IPFT, the BJP won the Assembly polls just three years ago (2018) ousting the 25-year uninterrupted governance of the Communist Party of India-Marxist led Left Front. The BJP and the IPFT had secured 36 and 8 seats respectively in the 60-member assembly while remaining 16 seats were bagged by the CPI-M.

The IPFT President and Revenue Minister Narendra Chandra Debbarma said that despite their repeated appeal, the BJP leadership in Tripura and at the Centre did not yet discuss the seat sharing pattern and ratio in the upcoming TTAADC polls, which has a jurisdiction of over two-thirds of Tripura’s 10,491 sq km area and home to over 12,16,000 people, 90 per cent of which are tribals.

“After getting no response from the state leadership, delegations led by our party’s General Secretary and Forest Minister Mevar Kumar Jamatia went to Delhi three times and urged the BJP’s central leaders including the party’s President J.P. Nadda to finalise the seat sharing for the TTAADC polls.

But, unfortunately, the BJP leadership remained quiet on our repeated requests,” Debbarma told IANS.

Both Debbarma and Jamatia told IANS separately on Wednesday that they yet to get any invitation from the BJP leadership even as the BJP’s central observer Vinod Kumar Sonkar arrived here on Tuesday to discuss the TTAADC poll strategies with the state leadership of the saffron party.

The BJP-IPFT relation further deteriorated after the tribal based party’s (IPFT) top leadership since February 20 held a series of meetings with Tripura’s royal scion Pradyot Bikram Manikya Deb Barman, who was earlier state President of Congress but subsequently quit the party in 2019, recently formed an alliance of few tribal based parties and named TIPRA (The Indigenous Progressive Regional Alliance).

IPFT President (Debbarma) and General Secretary (Jamatia), both are ministers of the BJP-led Council of Ministers headed by the Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb, however, said that they are still in coalition with the saffron party.In contrast, the BJP leaders already declared that they would put up candidates in majority of the TTAADC’s 28 seats.

The IPFT has reportedly wanted 22 seats to put up their candidates..BJP spokesman Nabendu Bhattacharjee said that they are still open to discuss with the IPFT leaders.

“The last date for submission of nomination papers for the TTAADC polls is March 12. No meeting was called to discuss the seat sharing issue with the IPFT in the coming few days,” Bhattacharjee told IANS.

Another tribal based party Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura (INPT), a former ally of the Congress, earlier held talks with the TIPRA supremo Pradyot Bikram Manikya Deb Barman to jointly contest the polls to the TTAADC.

“If Deb Barman does not finalise the seat share with us by Thursday, we would put up candidates in all the 28 TTAADC seats,” INPT advisory committee chairman Srota Ranjan Khisa told IANS.

The opposition Communist Party of India-Marxist, which has a substantial base among the tribals and had overned the TTAADC until May 17 last year, and the Congress also prepare themselves to contest the elections. After the Bodoland Territorial Council polls in western Assam in December last year, the BJP had forged an alliance with the United People’s Party Liberal (UPPL) and the Gana Suraksha Party (GSP), discarding its old ally Bodoland People’s Front (BPF).

The BPF has three ministers in the government led by Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal. The BJP had contested the last Assam assembly election in 2016 in alliance with the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and BPF and came to power ousting the 15-year (2001-2016) uninterrupted rule of the Congress and becoming the single-largest party with 60 seats, while its allies AGP and BPF had won 14 and 12 seats respectively.

The ruling alliance has the support of one independent MLA.In Tripura, the IPFT has been agitating since 2009 for the creation of a separate state by upgrading the TTAADC, which was constituted under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution in June 1985.

The IPFT’s demand, however, is strongly opposed by all the political major parties including the BJP, the CPI-M and the Congress. Of Tripura’s four million populations, one third are tribals and they played a crucial role in all kinds of political affairs of the northeastern state.

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