Tripura votes.

BJP in for rude shock: Tripura ex royal, now X-factor, on reserved seats

I am not against Bengalis; people who are against Bengalis are in BJP: Pradyot

Prashun Bhaumik | Agartala | 16 February, 2023 | 11:10 PM

The remark comes against the backdrop of Home Minister Amit Shah's charge that Tipra Motha has a "secret understanding" with the Congress and the CPM.

Tipra Motha leader Pradyot Manikya Debbarma, whose party is being seen as the X-factor in this Tripura election, rules out the BJP’s claims of a tacit understanding with the Congress-CPM alliance stating his loyalty lies only with his supporters.

In an exclusive chat with NDTV, Debbarma said he has old friends in many parties, including the Congress, and he had been greeting them whenever he met them during poll meetings.

Asked if such meetings were indications of any political understanding as alleged by the BJP, he replied, “I am the king of my own world. I don’t have to listen to (BJP chief JP) Nadda ji, I don’t have to listen to Sonia ji, I have to listen to my inner voice. I am an independent leader of my own party. I don’t have to go by the diktats by what the Home Minister says or what Congress president Kharge ji says. I am going to go with what my heart says. It is my personal decision. I do not have to listen to any orders.”

Speaking further on how he maintains good equations with leaders of other parties, irrespective of their political affiliation, he said, “If Shiv Sena can support Pratibha Patil in presidential election and Mamata Banerjee can extend support to Pranab Mukherjee, why can’t I think Mr X is a good human being and Mr Y is not?”

The remark comes against the backdrop of Home Minister Amit Shah’s charge that Tipra Motha has a “secret understanding” with the Congress and the CPM and that voting for the tribal party means voting for the Communists.

Tipra Motha is contesting 42 out of the 60 Assembly seats. This includes the 20 seats reserved for Scheduled Tribes candidates. In 2018, the BJP and its ally Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT) won 18 of these 20 seats. Debbarma, a scion of the Tripura’s ersthwhile royal family, said this time the BJP was in for a “rude shock”.

Asked if the crowd in his rallies would convert into votes in the ballot, he replied, “If rallies are not a factor, then why is (Prime Minister) Modi ji not holding street corner meetings?”

Many of the seats Tipra Motha is contesting are outside the tribal belt and rivals have scoffed and predicted a drab show. The leader, however, said he is confident of an all-round good show. “Tipra Motha is the most inclusive party. We have given it to tribals, Bengalis, Scheduled Castes, Manipuris.”

To a question on whether he fears a counter polarisation of Bengali votes since his party has been pushing its statehood demand for a Greater Tipraland, Debbarma said, “I am not against Bengalis. The people who are against the Bengalis are in the BJP. Their vice-president wanted Biplab Deb, a former Chief Minister, deported to Bangladesh. IPFT stands for polarisation.”

Stressing that his family never differentiated between people, he said, “We will always stand for an inclusive society. What we want is a political separation of Tripura so that people living in the autonomous areas (Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council), including Bengalis, Muslims, tea garden workers, Manipuris, they get their rights.”

In the run-up to the election, Tipra Motha had held discussions with the BJP on forging an alliance, but the talks hit an impasse over the separate state demand.

Asked which party he would side with it if the multi-cornered poll fight throws up a hung result, he said he would not budge from his party’s core demand.

“When it comes to media, I have a very soft corner for NDTV and when it comes to parties, I have a very soft corner for people who have voted for us, who have hoped that we will not betray our movement. I will only stick with them and not with any political party. If they give us a Constitutional solution, we will talk, but if they don’t, I would rather sit in the Opposition than betray the movement and the people.”

He added, “My line is Tipra Motha, like NDTV’s line is trust.”

On his mimicry skills, he said, “Mimicry is an art. You observe and then you improvise. I have always had an open heart, I have always met everyone. I am not a typical politician. I think the time has come when politicians behave more like human beings, common people rather than sitting in their palaces and thrones.”

He also alleged that a BJP MLA had entered one of the polling booths and had tried to snatch voters’ identity cards. “This is normal, they did this in the Lok Sabha (polls), but I don’t think you can intimidate 2.2 million people,” he said.

On the BJP’s claims that poll malpractices occurred during the CPM rule, he said, “That’s why the people were disgusted and voted for the BJP. The BJP should have learnt that the Left was routed because of intimidation. People don’t like bullies.”

Courtesy NDTV