Tripura’s Uncertain Alliances: As TSP Splits, Tipra Motha Faces Setback
In Tripura, tribal politics is notoriously fragmented and complicated, with the birth of new outfits, break-ups, mergers, and demergers being commonplace. The latest development in this is the reactivation of the Tipraland State Party (TSP), which was formed in 2015 with the aim of promoting Tripuri nationalism and social reforms.
In 2021, the TSP became a constituent of the Tipra Motha party, founded by royal scion Pradyot Bikram Manikya Debbarma in 2019, in an effort to promote tribal consolidation. However, on September 11, the TSP faction decided to break away from Tipra Motha and reactivate the defunct TSP with a proper organisational structure. The group aims to gradually launch agitational programs to become a significant factor in the state's political space and ensure the survival of the indigenous community. Exercises are on to determine an organisational structure, TSP’s convener Sridam Debbarma told NewsClick.
Tipra Motha (TM) was initially floated as a social outfit and is also known as Tipraha Indigenous Progressive Regional Alliance.
Sridam Debbarma claimed 16 out of the 18 TM candidates, who had won the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC) elections held in early April 2021, had their ‘affiliation’ with TSP. Therefore, “we have a right to ask them to abide by TSP’s rules and regulations and should they disobey, they will attract disciplinary action,” he said.
The two other victorious candidates belonged to the Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura. TTAADC has 28 seats to be filled through elections, and two members are nominated to it by the Governor.
The breakaway group’s main grievance is that Tipra Motha had failed to devise a functional structure with an executive committee, district-level committees and other units at the lower level. Also, the leadership has not formulated a policy to realise the objective of a composite Tipraland. No mass movement had been organised since Tipra Motha’s plenary session in July. Although as a constituent, TSP was not taken into confidence on the party’s functional aspects.
However, Pradyot Bikram and Tipra Motha president Bijoy Hrangkhawl deny the allegations. The royal scion pointed out that leaders of the disgruntled elements were on a fault-finding mission after they were denied tickets for the Assembly elections held in February.
Hrankhwal contended that if indeed they had the interest of Tipra Motha as their top priority, they could have worked at the grassroot level, and “helped us in building the organisation.”
“Now, it seems separation from Tipra Motha was their priority. They formally quit Tipra Motha on September 11, but they had distanced themselves from party affairs since February when they learnt for sure that they won’t be given tickets to fight the Assembly polls,” Pradyot Bikram told NewsClick.
In the last Assembly election, Tipra Motha had put up candidates in 42 constituencies and won 13 seats to emerge as the main Opposition
Against the backdrop of the allegations and counter-allegations, two allied points deserve mention. The Pradyot Bikram had given up the position of chairperson in the third week of July and had announced then he would like to work as a ‘warrior’. Recently, Hrangkhawl constituted a central working committee, which is to function as a top decision-making body and nominated Pradyot Bikram as a member on it. Other senior leaders nominated on the central working committee are Hrangkhawl himself, TTAADC chairperson Jagadish Debbrama, Tripura Assembly Opposition leader Animesh Debbarma, former minister Mevar Kumar Jamatia and MLA Brishaketu Debbarma. By constituting a central working committee and indicating that a functional arrangement would be made at other levels, Pradyot Bikram and Hrangkhawl have accepted that the deserters had a valid grievance.
Secondly, the TSP convener’s talk of acting against the 16 TTAADC members if they continued to swear loyalty to Tipra Motha has serious implications. There may be a split, and in that case, it will be a second blow. Pradyot Bikram, however, ruled out a split at the TTAADC level.
Political parties in Tripura are currently working to strengthen their booth-level units while awaiting decisions from their top decision-making bodies on whether to contest the next Lok Sabha elections.
When asked about the possibility of the Left and the Congress forming an alliance, CPI(M)'s state secretary, Jitendra Chowdhury, said, "It's too early to say anything on this subject. The central committee is taking stock of the evolving situation, and it will be their decision."
However, Chowdhury criticized the state government's failure to maintain law and order during the recent bye-elections for two seats. He claimed that the police sided with BJP activists, intimidated their workers and supporters, and even disrupted their meetings and processions. "At times, it becomes difficult to conduct our normal political activities," Chowdhury said.
This view was contested by state BJP president Rajib Bhattacharjee who claimed bye-elections were peaceful. “Their organisational weakness is visible,” he said. He indicated the BJP in all likelihood will field candidates for both the Lok Sabha seats – Tripura East (ST) and Tripura West. “We will convey our wish to the HQs,” he added.
Tripura PCC president Ashis Kumar Saha said, “We do not know if we will fight with the Left as our partner and as INDIA block constituents. We are trying to activate our workers in both the Lok Sabha constituencies. The Left, without consulting us, had fielded their candidates for the two Assembly bye-elections.”
Meanwhile, Pradyot Bikram, disclosed that no INDIA block leader had contacted him and told him to join the block. In a previous interview with NewsClick, he had stated that Tipra Motha would contest the Lok Sabha elections.
The TSP convener, Sridam, expressed his views on the upcoming elections, stating that much would depend on how much organizational strength they could muster in the coming months. "After all, fighting Lok Sabha elections is not an easy job; a lot of manpower and funds are needed," he said.
Meanwhile, Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress, which fought the February Assembly elections in 20 plus seats, is non-functional at the moment. Pijush Biswas had led the party as TMC chief for a short while around the election time. Knowledgeable political quarters expect Biswas to join the Congress and AICC leaders have also contacted him.
The writer is a Kolkata-based freelance journalist.
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