Tripura tribal polls: results and takeaways


Recent elections in Tripura’s Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC) have thrown up results that are significant for several reasons. A ragtag alliance of tribal political parties, forged two months ago at the initiative of Pradyot Kishore Manikya Debbarma of the erstwhile royal family, have swept the polls covering nearly 70% of Tripura’s geographical area. The BJP was a distant second, the Congress drew a blank and the results decimated whatever was left of the Left.

What is TTAADC

Formed on January 18, 1982, TTADC governs areas that enjoy a set of protective constitutional safeguards for people from 19 tribal communities. These include statutory protection of tribal land. One third of the state’s population lives here, a large majority of them still depending on slash-and-burn cultivation and traditional livelihood for sustenance.

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The TTADC has 30 seats, of which 28 are elected. The newly formed TIPRA Motha and its ally INPT won 18 seats (vote shares 37.43% and 9.3%), the BJP 9 (18.72%) and an independent candidate 1. For the BJP, it is still a gain from the previous TTADC polls, when it had won no seats (7.87%). But BJP’s tribal ally IPFT (10.62%) failed to win any seat. The CPM, during whose government TTADC was formed 39 years ago, was washed out with a 12.46% vote share — the Left Front had won all 28 seats (48.88%) in in the last council and had governed the tribal council for three consecutive terms.

Poll issues

Pradyot’s TIPRA Motha contested the polls over the demand of Greater Tipraland, a proposed administrative authority governing Tripuri tribals in Tripura, Assam, Mizoram and parts of Bangladesh. Greater Tipraland is essentially an extension beyond the ruling IPFT’s demand of Tipraland, which sought a separate state for tribals of Tripura. The new demand seeks to include every tribal person living in indigenous areas or villages outside TTAADC under the proposed model, including in areas outside the state and the country. Pradyot has said details of the demand would be placed before the central government for dialogue if all indigenous tribal leaders of Tripura including himself are invited for talks.

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Pradyot has been quoted as saying in an interview that the results are a vindication of his stand on the CAA (Citizenship Amendment Bill). Formerly in the Congress, he had quit over the party’s stand on the CAA. Tripura’s demography has been shaped by decades of migration, and Pradyot opposes CAA, which allows migrants of certain groups to seek Indian citizenship. He has also gone to court demanding a National Register of Citizens ( NRC) in Tripura.

The BJP contested the polls on the issue of good governance. The CPM fought for rescuing democracy.

The message

The results are a jolt to the IPFT, which had claimed to be the sole stakeholder of tribal issues. IPFT’s agenda of Tipraland or a separate state for tribals has taken a back seat behind Pradyot’s Greater Tipraland demand. With IPFT looking irrelevant now, it opens up the possibility of BJP reviewing the need for an alliance in the next Assembly polls.

For the BJP, the results show their limitations in making inroads in tribal politics. The results also set TIPRA on the way to becoming the main rival of the BJP, which is against dividing the tiny state and had had turned down even ally IPFT’s Tipraland demand.

Eight decades after launching a movement against the grip of royalty, the CPM’s poor showing reflects its disconnect from tribals and failure to ensure adequate development while in power.

Pradyot enjoys a connect with the people, formed over decades by the erstwhile royal family. That said, his demand of Greater Tipraland, whilst advocating community inclusion, is ethnic at its core and could possibly lead to resurgence of ethnic politics.

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