Agartala: On November 20, the Tripura education minister and cabinet spokesperson Ratan Lal Nath called a press conference. As is often the case, he used the press conference to highlight the achievements of his government. He spoke about how Tripura had done much, much better than other states in its fight against COVID-19.
“Big states like West Bengal, Orissa, Bihar, Haryana, Gujarat lag behind Tripura in the number of samples tested per million. Tripura is also in a better position than the 16 states in the country in terms of positivity rate. Even, the national average 6.97 per cent is higher than Tripura’s 6.41 per cent rate”, Nath added.
Given Tripura’s state of public health, this was indeed a welcome achievement, and these numbers proved that the state has done well. So far, so good.
Which is why it is even more perplexing that the same government had, two days earlier, extended Governor’s role in Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC) for another six months. Elections could not be held amidst the outbreak of novel coronavirus, said Tripura Governor Ramesh Kumar Bais said.
How, and why, did the same government applaud itself for their fight against COVID-19 and yet use the same as an excuse to delay elections?
No wonder, this move has left both the BJP allies and the opposition confused.
The move raises eyebrows also because BJP’s ally, the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura, had said that unless they get lion’s share in the upcoming tribal body elections, they would consider exiting the alliance with the BJP.
Also Read: Tripura: Governor’s rule extended for six more months in tribal district council
Speaking with EastMojo, Mangal Debbarma, assistant general secretary, IPFT, said, “We are the coalition partners in the present BJP-IPFT government. When elections in other BJP-ruled states can be conducted, why cant elections be held here? Debbarma said.
He also said that schools and educational institutions have resumed, cultural programs and events are also being organised, maintaining the protocol. The state election commission should be capable enough to conduct the election amidst the restrictions.
“As per the decision taken in the central committee meeting, IPFT would contest the election with BJP only if 22 out of 28 elected seats are given to us. In case we are not given free hand, IPFT would contest the ADC polls alone like we did in Lok Sabha election in 2019,” Debbarma added.
When questioned if that would harm or affect their partnership in the present government, Debbarma said the party high command has not taken any decision in this regard. However, he maintained that the party would not leave its ideology even at the cost of losing the government.
Earlier, on March 26, the elections of the district council were deferred for an indefinite period.
After the term of TTAADC expired on May 17, Tripura governor appointed former Tripura chief secretary G Kameshwara Rao as the administrator of the (TTAADC), day after the tenure of the executive committee dissolved.
The governor, in its notification, has cited that the World Health Organization (WHO) has also warned everyone about COVID-19 and advised them to follow hygiene rules. Mentioning all these issues, the deadline for handing over the administrative power to the Governor in the ADC has been extended for another six months as elections are not possible now.
Congress vice president, Tapas Dey said that there is a lack of coordination between the governor and state government.
“The governor is acting on behalf of the BJP party, though the education minister is also a BJP man, they have their own agenda. The Governor’s agenda is that BJP is yet to gain ground at the ADC level and Ratan Lal Nath has been beating his drums highlighting his Government’s achievement,” Dey said.
Also Read: COVID-19: Tripura minister says situation much better than rest of India
He also said that it is very mysterious that the one government changes tones as per convenience.
“Now, it is to see who is telling a lie and who is right. Elections are being conducted in the Bodoland region, Tiwa regions and other territorial district councils in Assa, There is no reason to defer the TTAADC election”, Dey added.
The elections for the Bodoland Territorial Council in Assam was announced on November 17 last. Elections would be held on December 7 in the first phase and on December 10 in the second phase. The count will be held on December 12.
The term of the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) in Assam had also expired in April and elections were postponed due to the outbreak of the virus. The administrative power was handed over to the governor to manage the administration.
The Opposition CPIM leader and former MP Jitendra Choudhury also echoed the same and said that there is no equation between the state ministers.
“The state government has totally failed to maintain the health situation, and it was an attempt by the cabinet minister to hide the reality from the citizens,” Choudhury said.
He also said that only 10 per cent of the people are visiting hospitals, and most of them prefer to stay at home in isolation.
“It is just the tip of the iceberg. In reality, the total health department has collapsed. People are afraid to undergo COVID-19 test in the state,” Choudhury added.
Speaking further, he said both the BJP and their ally IPFT lost their ground in the ADC, and by deferring the election, they are trying to unite the miscreants and anti-social elements for rigging the elections.
On November 20, cabinet spokesperson and education minister Ratan Lal Nath said Tripura is in a much better position than the rest of the country in terms of COVID-19 crisis.
He said that Tripura’s position is better than the national average in positivity rate, death rate, recovery rate and sample testing in comparison to many states in India.
The education minister further said that Tripura is currently testing 1,25,813 samples per 10 lakh on an average, which is better than 20 Indian states.
Also Read: Polls & Promises: A ground report of tribal areas in Tripura
Reacting to the political reactions, Speaking with EastMojo, he said that the decision of the governor was rightly taken.
“The governor is the state head, and if he feels that conducting elections would result in further spreading the novel coronavirus, the elections should not be conducted,” Nath said.
He also said that the government does not want a mass gathering happening at this moment.
“In many countries, there are no restrictions, but in India, the main responsibility is to save lives over the economy. The state is in a better position, but we are not in a position to take any risk even if we suffer economic loss”, Nath added.
The TTAADC covers 7,132.56 sq km, which is around 70 per cent of the geographical area of the state. It is also home to one-third of the state’s population.
The TTAADC consists of a 30 member council, of which 28 are elected, and the Governor nominates two members. To increase the strength of the tribal council, the government has decided to increase the number of seats to 50.
Meanwhile, the newly-appointed Tripura Pradesh BJP observer Vinod Sonkar is likely to visit arrive here in Agartala on December 3. He is also likely to hold a meeting with the BJP’s ally IPFT and discuss the forthcoming TTAADC elections.
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