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Greater Tipraland in slow lane, TIPRA Motha hits dissent bump

In the first major rebellion in the TIPRA Motha party, its constituent Tipraland State Party (TSP) has broken away, accusing the Motha of failing to deliver on its core agenda of Greater Tipraland.

The TSP was one of the many Tripura-based tribal parties that came together to form the Motha in 2021.

While the Motha brushed away the TSP’s exit, the charges made by it regarding the wilting hope of Greater Tipraland are expected to hurt the Motha, and its founder and former chief Pradyot Kishore Manikya Debbarma.

TSP senior leader Sridam Debbarma asked why the Motha had not organised any major movement since its plenary session in July, and was yet to set up a basic organisational structure. The party had no state executive committee, and only ragtag district and block panels, Debbarma said.

The TSP leader also accused the Motha of talking in different voices and reaching out to varied parties on key issues. “An agreement was reached in February and we thought that our demand (of Greater Tipraland) would be fulfilled… but it got lost… Sometimes, there is talk of an interlocutor and Constitutional solution, we have also heard senior Motha leaders saying they don’t want to divide Tripura and that they are big fans of Prime Minister Modi. It is not us alone but the people too want to know what they are doing,” Debbarma said.

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In a post, Pradyot said he wished the TSP well. “May they along with us also fight for our people and community.”

The Motha, which had swept the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council elections soon after its formation, and emerged as the second-largest party after the BJP in the recent Assembly elections is under pressure to fulfill the promise of Greater Tipraland for tribals that helped propel its rise.

The Motha’s Greater Tipraland envisages a separate state for tribals, including the ADC areas and a few villages outside it.

While the Motha was seen as leaning towards the CPI(M) and Congress before the elections, Pradyot has since tried to maintain equidistance. The BJP’s success in achieving a simple majority on its own in the state – even if wafter-thin – meant the Motha was not the kingmaker it had hoped to be. Rather, it needed to keep the BJP, in power in both the state and Centre, in good humour for its demands to be met.

With 32 seats in a House of 60, the BJP too had reached out to the Motha to ensure stability in government, and promised a committee to study the demands of tribals in Tripura, including for a separate state.

Delegations of the Motha have met Home Minister Amit Shah and Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who is chairperson of the North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) of the BJP, in the hope of a breakthrough.

However, the Centre is yet to appoint the promised interlocutor. Eventually, the Motha recently met A K Mishra, an Advisor to the Ministry of Home Affairs on the Northeast, along with other tribal parties and social organisations to make its case.

The Centre’s promise notwithstanding, it is tricky terrain for the BJP as its local unit opposes any division of the state.

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What has also hurt the Motha is the July 16 resignation of Pradyot as Motha chairperson, in keeping with what he had promised. While quitting, he lashed out at party leaders, in a message that many felt demoralised the ranks, saying: “The biggest mistake is that tribals think about themselves first and the community later.”

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Several admitted in private that the Motha leadership might see more dissent within, with Pradyot’s appeal no longer holding them together, Greater Tipraland remaining elusive, and the BJP on the prowl. The Manik Saha Cabinet has space for three more ministers, which has kept speculation about the BJP’s plans buzzing.

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The BJP would be keen to win tribal backing ahead of the parliamentary elections as one of the two Lok Sabha seats in Tripura is reserved for Scheduled Tribes.

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