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Published On: Mon, Mar 5th, 2018

Saffron BJP’s ally IPFT favors tribal leader as CM

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AVDBJPIPFT AVDBJPIPFTAGARTALA : TheBJP party has another task to contend with before the business of administering the state begins: choosing a chief minister without upsetting any constituency. In a state where the indigenous tribal population has often been pitted against its Bengali-speaking residents, that may be almost as difficult as the battle to dislodge the Left.
The Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT) has said its ally, the Bharatiya Janata Party, should honour the support from the indigenous communities and choose a tribal leader to head the 60-member Assembly on Tuesday.
The IPFT also wants an honorable sharing of portfolios after the swearing-in later this week. The BJP-IPFT combine won 18 of the 19 seats reserved for the State’s tribes where Assembly elections were held on February 18. Polling in another seat was countermanded after a CPI(M) candidate died of heart attack.

The IPFT won eight of the nine seats it contested across areas under the Tripura Tribal Autonomous District Council. Of the BJP’s 35 seats, 10 are in the tribal belt.
“We have made no demands because this has been a hard-fought victory together. We have just said we should honor the people in the tribal areas who voted spontaneously for the alliance. They want to see an indigenous person to lead the State,” Narendra Chandra Debbarma says 81-year-old leader of the IPFT.

“We have also not sought a specific number of berths in the Ministry. It is for them [BJP] to offer us. Their central leaders are coming tomorrow [Tuesday] for a meeting of the newly-elected MLAs. If they desire, they can have a meeting with us too,” Mr. Debbarma said. The IPFT chief rejected reports of any differences between the two allies.
In the 35 years that the Left has ruled in Tripura in all, the only tribal chief minister to have led the state was Dashrat Deb, who was at the helm from 1993 to 1998. Deb was in the running for the post even in 1978, when the Left came to power in the state for the first time. But he was passed over for the Bengali leader Nripen Chakrabarty.
So far, Biplab Kumar Deb, the party’s 48-year-old state president, appears to be the front runner. Even in the run-up to the polls, Deb featured prominently on the party’s promotional hoardings across the state. An import from the RSS, he is believed to be well-liked by the party’s central leadership.

In an interview ahead of the elections, the party’s state prabhari (convenor) and senior RSS man, Sunil Deodhar, had spoken glowingly of Deb’s leadership, saying that he was one of the most admired leaders within the party’s state unit.
Deb came from a family of Jan Sangh – the earlier avatar of the BJP – followers. The foray into the RSS, he had said, was a natural step. “My father did Jan Sangh when few people even knew about them in Tripura,” said Deb, who was born in Tripura’s Udaipur area.

However, in spite of Deb’s apparent popularity, there has been talk of propping up a tribal face instead, said a BJP leader. It would address a long-running grievance among Tripura’s indigenous population, that it has been left out of the decision-making machinery in state capital Agartala.
The demographic change that Tripura has seen over the years is cited as a reason for these anxieties. In 1948, indigenous tribes accounted for over 80% of the state’s population, now they account for about 30%.
More recently, the BJP’s ally, the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura, put forward the demand for Twipraland, a separate tribal state. The BJP understands these apprehensions well. The tribal vote was instrumental in its success against the Left. It would be keen not to repeat the Left’s mistakes.

On Monday, a meeting of indigenous groups is expected to take place in Agartala to impress upon the BJP the community’s desire for a tribal chief minister. According to members of the BJP, the party’s leadership is mindful of these aspirations – and there are at least three tribal leaders being considered for the post.(With Agency Inputs).

 

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