Assembly Polls: ‘Tipra Motha’ sans its dream of Greater Tipraland

Jayanta Debnath

March 18, 2023, 09:31:24   

Assembly Polls: ‘Tipra Motha’ sans its dream of Greater Tipraland

(Tripura Assembly Election-2023, A Review)


The 11th election to the Tripura Legislative Assembly (as a full state) was held on 16 February 2023. This year's state assembly elections have been held against a backdrop of many controversies. The most significant aspect of this election was the coming together of Left Front and Congress in the seat sharing system. Since 1952, the Congress and the CPM were identified as traditional rivals in the electoral politics of the state but it is they who had joined forces to fight against the BJP this time. Moreover, the rise of regional party 'Tipra Matha' is another significant aspect of this year's Tripura Assembly polls.

It is well known, that out of 60 seats in the Tripura Legislative Assembly, 20 are reserved for tribals and 10 for scheduled castes. In the 2018 assembly elections, the BJP and regional party IPFT made a stunning comeback by capturing 44 seats (BJP-36 and IPFT-8) to oust the Left Front from power after a long twenty five years (1993-2018). However, five BJP MLAs, Sudip Raybarman, Ashish Saha, Diva Chandra Hrangkhal, Borvamohan Tripura and Ashish Das, left the party during the government's five-year tenure, and three IPFT MLAs, namely, Mebar Kumar Jamatia, Vrishketu Debbarma and Dhananjaya Tripura  left  IPFT to join Tipramatha.

It is also true that for almost five years of the BJP-IPFT regime, the BJP government has had to deal with party instability and factionalism. In the middle of the fifth year of the BJP government, the party's Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Dev was forced to resign from the post of Chief Minister. And in the last year of the reign, Dr. Manik Saha replaced Biplab Dev. However, the central leadership of the party made strong preparations to retain power at any cost from mid-2022. The party was weakened by the death of alliance partner IPFT, party patriarch Narendra Chandra Debbarma. But even then the BJP's alliance with the IPFT continued. Election Commission issued the poll notification on 18th January 2023 and the polls were finally held on 16th February and the results were declared on 2nd March. Dr. Manik Saha and eight other ministers took oath as chief minister on March 8. In this poll, the BJP allotted only five seats to the partner party IPFT and kept 55 seats for itself.

As mentioned earlier, one of the major issues in the pre-poll scenario for the 2023 Tripura Assembly polls was the seat-sharing understanding between the Left Front and the Congress. The Left Front allotted 13 seats to the Congress and kept 47 seats for itself (CPI(M)-44, Forward Bloc-1, RSP-1 and CPI-1). Central leaders of the CPI(M) and Congress had reached an understanding that instead of vote sharing, mutual transfer of votes would pave an easier way to win more assembly seats. But in reality it was not happened. Interestingly, though senior national leaders of the CPI(M) like Prakash Karat, Sitaram Yechury and Brinda Karat campaigned for Left Front candidates, no senior Congress leaders including Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi and Mallikarjun Kharge attended the campaign to boost the party candidates' chances of victory. Along with local leaders, only Congress All India General Secretary Ajay Kumar continued to campaign for the Congress alone.

On the other hand 'Tipra Matha' fielded candidates in 42 seats including 22 general and SC reserved seats with ethnocentric politics fronting the passionate demand of Greater Tipraland. This is the first time in the history of Tripura's electoral politics that a regional party has fielded candidates in a total of 42 general and SC reserved seats. And Tipramatha's fight for an additional 22 seats over the 20 seats reserved for Scheduled Tribes has led to a esey victory of BJP in poll results. 'Tipra Matha' supremo Pradyot Kishore was called upon by the Left Front-Congress alliance to defeat the BJP. Pradyot himself, while campaigning for the assembly elections, insisted that his party would not allow the opposition to divide its votes. However, 'Tipra Matha'-in the end could not keep this promise. But before the elections it was predicted that 'Tipra Matha' would perform well in the elections and eventually it came true but in the post-election scenario Pradyot's claims and hopes of becoming a king-maker proved wrong.

Elections across the state on February 16 were fairly peaceful and smooth. Everyone gave credit for this to the Election Commission and the state's Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Kiran Gitte. However, the announcement of election results on March 2 came as a setback for the opposition. Because CPI (M) won 16 seats in 2018 elections. This time it managed to win only 11 assembly seats. Congress did not win a single seat in 2018. Its position improved slightly by winning 3 seats in the 2023 elections. 'Tipra Matha' contested 42 seats and won a total of 13 ST seats. But the opposition Left Front and Congress managed to secure defeat in more than 19 seats including two ST constituencies in South Tripura namely Jolaibari and Manu. The ruling BJP won 32 seats including 7 seats reserved for tribals  this time.  In 2018 BJP won 36 seats alone. And the IPFT had won 8 seats in 2018. But this time the party contested five seats and won only one seat (Jolaibari (ST)) in South Tripura.

Another significant issue in this election is the fact that Tipramatha's chief Pradyot Bikram could not be the kingmaker. Pradyot Kishor's dream of a Greater Tipraland failed to play the role of king-maker in the post-election situation. Because the BJP-IPFT alliance did not need the support of any other party to form the government. What Pradyot managed to achieve in the elections was to ensure the defeat of the opposition in 19 seats due to the general tribal vote split due to his party's candidates. In the final analysis it clearly emerges that the opposition has failed to match the BJP's hugely spent money  campaign strategy. The opposition has completely failed to counter the all-out and concerted efforts of the RSS-backed 'Hindutvadi' party in the campaign. BJP has benefited greatly from various central schemes benefiting poor people. But still BJP is said to have benefited from vote sharing in many constituencies. BJP got 43.59% votes in 2018. But this year it got only 38.97% i.e. 4.62% votes BJP alone got less. Left Front got 42.22% votes in 2018 with 16 seats. This time it has come down to 26.80%. That is, CPM alone got 15.42% less votes. Left Front could not win a single tribal reserved seat in this election. But the Congress won 3 seats and got 8.56% votes in a good statistical position. Congress got only 1.9% votes in 2018. But did not get a single seat. Five years ago the BJP's alliance partner IPFT won 8 seats and 7.5% votes in 2018. But this time the party won only 1 seat and got 1.26% of the votes by contesting five seats. That is, this time the combined loss of BJP-IPFT votes is 10.86%. Because the BJP coalition got 51.09% votes in 2018. But this time they got only  40.23% votes. But what is noteworthy is that for the first time 'Tipra Matha' has made a big impact in the state politics by contesting in the 42 assembly constituencies and by winning 13 seats and getting more than 22% votes. But the demand for Greater Tipra Land, which had led to a poll battle by creating passion among the hill people, has now backed away from the party due to the question of political leverage of some Tipramatha leaders. A section of Tipramatha leadership is trying hard to join the BJP government. Leaving the demand for Greater Tipra Land, Pradyot Kishore sometimes raised the demand for Union Territory and sometimes talked about the introduction of Innerline Permit in ADC. In other words, after realizing that the demands of Greater Tipraland are not being met, they are now walking on the path of constitutional protection for the overall development of the tribes of Tripura. For this purpose, he also held a meeting with Union Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP All India President JP Nadda in Agartala on March 8 2023. In that meeting, the two top BJP leaders announced the appointment of an 'interlocator' under the Union Home Ministry to find out what could be done for the overall development of the tribal and hill people of the state, in exchange for Pradyot's demand for Greater Tipra Land and constitutional protection. . Now let's see whether the 'interlocator' of the Union Home Ministry brings forward all the constitutional promises for the overall development of the people of the hilly areas in Tripura.

Another notable aspect of the 2023 state assembly elections is the smooth and peaceful polling. Before the polls, the Election Commission of the country started implementing a strict electoral ban called 'Mission Zero Poll Violence'. Though polling was peaceful due to various stringent measures taken by the Election Commission, surprisingly it was observed that even after the polls, the election terror continued for several days across the state. CPM and Congress allege that the ruling BJP and a vested interest in Tipra Matha are most responsible for this. On the other hand, Congress, CPM and Tipramatha could not accept the defeat of the ruling party and resorted to violence in various places.

But a large number of well-intentioned people of the state, irrespective of party affiliation, urged the various political parties before the polls to avoid post-poll violence. But despite that, thousands of untoward incidents took place in various parts of the state after the polls, which are rare in other parts of the country. (The writer is a senior journalist and editor of