Panchayat by-election clash : lumpenisation of politics at its worst, portends for the future

Ramen Biswas

With the by-election to a large number of Panchayat, Panchayat Samity and Zilla Parishad seats drawing near Tripura's old and simmering sickness of political polarization and clashes has raised its ugly head. Already there is tension all over the state, specially where the elections are due and a lare number of people have sustained injuries. The opposition CPI (M) has been crying foul over  the past six months raising allegations of attacks on their party workers and supporters and party offices but this did not evoke much sympathy. But the increasing tension and clashers between the ruling coalition partners, BJP and IPFT over sharing of spoils of power have brought the state to the brink of a massive turmoil which at any time may take the contours of ethnic clashes.

However, a closer study of the problem reveals that the deteriorating relationship between the ruling coalition partners basically stems from discontent over sharing of spoils of power. At the time of ministry formation IPFT got only two berths, Narendra Debbarma and Meber Kumar Jamatya, though out of eight they expected one more MLA to be included. Apart from this, MLAs belonging to both BJP and IPFT have not been appointed to the vacant posts of chairmen of more than forty corporations, committees and boards. While BJP leader Tinku Roy, Santosh Saha and Alik Mazuder have been posted as chairmen, the IPFT got only one post to which Mangal Debbarma was appointed to the post of chairman of ST corporation but none else even though tribal welfare minister Meber Kumar Jamatya is the ex officio chairman of the TRPC. But no other MLA including those from the ruling party has been given any position that could have helped them work politically in their constituencies.

Besides, the clash over sharing of posts of BAC chairman continues to rock the relationship between the IPFT and the BJP. Even today a bandh is continuing in Killa block while the Lefunga and Hezamara blocks remain dysfunctional because of IPFT's protests and blockade. After long parleys it had been decided through intervention of Himanta Biswa Sarma that IPFT would be given posts of chairmen in ten of the 58 blocks but so far no positive action has been taken, rather BJP has grabbed the posts in Killa, Lefunga and Hezamara creating serious discontent in IPFT ranks. Many other issues remain to be sorted out but it seems the state BJP leadership is on wrong track to establish oranisational stranglehold on tribal dominated areas which neither IPFT nor INPT will allow to happen.

This simmering discontent has manifested itself in clashes over Panchayat by-polls and the attack on local BJP MLA Birendra Debbarma. The situation was worsened by the overenthusiasm of local BJP workers and supporters to force their entry into all the 327 seats up for grabs in the September 30 by-elections. This has met with resistance from IPFT where there are tribal votes. In order to exploit BJP's traditional lack of acceptability to the minorities-both Muslims and Christians IPFT have been trying to woo these secions, specially the Muslims. Even though this will create a fresh problem because encouragement of Muslim minorities will only accelerate a demographic invasion  which will ultimately affect the ADC areas also and finally an Assam-like situation will be created here. But neither BJP nor its partner IPFT, obsessed with short-term gain in power seems to be aware of the larger implications of the clashes and responses to their faulty policies and short-sightedness. It is therefore eminently desirable that the coalition partenrs 

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