Will back BJP or left if they form Tripura tribal state: Tipra Motha

In case of a deadlock with no alliance or party able to gain majority in the ensuing three-cornered elections to the Tripura assembly, the Tipra Motha may stake claim to form government, its president Bijoy Kumar Hrangkhawl said.

The regional party, which has been attracting large numbers of adherents in the state’s tribal areas, is also willing to give outside support to any party or alliance (either the BJP or the Congress-Left combine) that manages to form government, provided it agrees ”on paper and on the floor of the House” that it will concede to Tipra Motha’s demand for creation of a separate tribal state.

Hrangkhawl also said his party held a meeting on the possibility of a pre-poll alliance, in Guwahati, where they met the chief minister of Assam and two BJP leaders from Delhi, but it did not yield any results.

”It may so happen that we may be the single-largest party in the state — in a post-poll scenario, we are willing to support from outside (any party which is able to form government), but you have to agree on paper and on the floor of the House that a new state will be created,” said Hrangkhawl, a former militant chieftain, in an exclusive interview to PTI.

”If they (other parties) do not agree, we will not proceed,” he said.

The veteran tribal leader, who after signing the Tripura peace accord with the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, had founded the Indigenous Nationalist Party of Twipra, which was merged with Tipra Motha two years back, also indicated that the strategy had been discussed with chairman of his party and former royal family’s scion Pradyot Kishore Manikya Debbarma.

He said in case of a constitutional deadlock with no party able to form a government, ”We will approach the governor to form a government, (despite) knowing that we may not be able to run it as they (other parties) will come together against us.”

The elections to the 60-member Tripura assembly, which includes 20 seats reserved from the tribal areas, are to be held on Wednesday.

Analysts believe that it will be a three-cornered election, with the Left-Congress alliance re-emerging in the state and newcomer Tipra Motha gaining widespread support in tribal areas.

In the last assembly elections held in 2018, BJP had stormed to power with 36 seats, half of which were won from the tribal areas. With the rise of Tipra Motha, a large chunk of the 20 tribal seats are expected to shift allegiance. While in the plains, where mostly non-tribals live, anti-incumbency and law and order issues may dent the ruling party’s tally.

The BJP had secured a 43.59 per cent vote share in 2018 compared to CPI-M’s 42.22 per cent vote and 2 per cent of the Congress, with most of the BJP’s gain at the Congress’s expense.

Hrangkhawl said attempts had been made for a pre-poll alliance, but that did not succeed. ”We met in Guwahati — we were invited by Assam CM (Himanta Biswa Sarma). Two more BJP leaders came from Delhi — we declined as they said we cannot agree (to a separate Tipraland).”

Though the ’Greater Tipraland’ concept, which the party propagates, has been left ambiguous by making demands on tribal areas in neighbouring states and even in Bangladesh, the Motha leaders have indicated that the actual borders may coincide with those of the existing Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council.

The former rebel leader also said that he cannot rule out attempts at horse trading. ”There may be some people who change his or her mind in the system of horse buying. We cannot rule it out,” he said.

However, Hrangkhawl added with a wry smile, ”We don’t foresee that from our group. Some of their (MLAs) friends will drag them back.”

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