Agartala: As the demand for the Constitutional solution raised by TIPRA Motha, the principal opposition party in Tripura Legislative Assembly gains traction in the national political discourse, the royal scion-led party seems to have taken centre stage in Tripura politics despite the BJP’s return to power.
Even though it had drawn criticism from the other political parties for allegedly decimating the electoral prospects of the Left-Cong combination, the TIPRA leadership had maintained a tough stand against the ruling party in the state assembly.
Just after the conclusion of the first assembly session, newly elected Leader of the Opposition and senior TIPRA leader Animesh Debbarma spoke exclusively to EastMojo on a host of issues ranging from the party’s future to the demand for a constitutional solution.
What sort of empowerment are you seeking via a constitutional solution?
Our Constitution has 395 articles in it. We want a solution for our people living in the TTAADC areas within the framework of the constitution and mind you, this is not a special privilege for one community. People from different caste categories: STs, SCs, OBCs and UR are living in the TTAADC areas.
The Tiprasa people are dominant but we have people from other communities as well living in this geographical area. Now the basic problems that people of these areas have been facing are multi-pronged. To list a few, people in this area don’t have any control over land. Drinking water facilities are poor. Roads are left in decrepit condition and in some areas, there are no roads at all. In education, Tripura has so many colleges, but in TAADC areas, there is only one college. Several good health facilities have been set up in the state over the years. There are district hospitals, Sub-divisional Hospitals, CHCs, PHCs and a lot more. But how many are in TTAADC areas? In overall infrastructure, If the general areas are progressing at a speed of 80 out of 100, the TTAADC areas are far behind with a score of 10-15 out of hundred.
Through a constitutional solution, we need powers to ensure that people of these areas have administrative rights and political power to spend their money in the direction they want. There are several articles in the constitution, like 244A and 271, that offer that much autonomy. All these powers must be conferred to TTAADC and that is the core of the constitutional solution.
You have been always vocal about the financial deprivation that TTAADC had faced. Do you think this will improve?
This may improve; I am not going to debate that. The fact is 35 per cent of Tripura’s total population lives in the TTAADC areas and if you look at the funding patterns of TTAADC for the last 39 years, this constitutional body never received more than 2 per cent of the state’s total budget. This disparity must go. When CPIM was in power, BJP campaigned extensively in the tribal areas stating that the Left had never given due respect to TTAADC and its finances. Now since the BJP is in power, the onus is on them to fulfil their commitments towards the people of TTAADC areas.
You are in talks with the Government of India ruled. But your party is standing against the BJP in the state assembly. How will you strike a balance? Don’t you feel BJP has a strategic advantage over the opposition?
There is nothing related to balancing. For a constitutional solution, we are not in talks with the BJP. It is the Government of India and the talks are underway at an administrative level. In the state assembly, the public gave us the mandate to sit on the opposition bench and we shall perform our responsibilities to the fullest. We shall always opt for constructive criticism against the government and oppose them when their policies go against the public interest.
Historically, regional parties in Tripura failed to survive long. IPFT is a recent example where the revival of the outfit only lasted for five years. How do you see TIPRA as different?
I will differ on this. IPFT should not be the ideal example of a regional party. You should give an example of TUJS (Tripura Upajati Juba Samiti) that had made its presence felt for several decades. It started in the 1970s and till 2013, the party stayed relevant in Tripura politics. Even after TUJS was renamed gas INPT, it remained active for several years. It is a fact that IPFT could not survive more than five years but TIPRA Motha is different. People have been watching us the way we have been fighting for them. The talks with the Government of India and developments like the appointment of interlocutors will work in our favour. And most importantly, the party is headed by none other than Maharaja Pradyot Kishore Manikya Debbarman. The royal family has followers across the state. I see TIPRA has a bright future in Tripura politics for the next 10 to 15 years even beyond that.
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Your party has created history in the 2023 elections leaving parties like Congress and CPIM behind. How do you see this development for Tripura politics?
TIPRA Motha is a new party and winning 13 seats for a regional party in its first attempt is a historical political development in Tripura. Had there been an alliance with parties like Congress or the BJP, the alliance would have got fifty seats easily. Considering all these facts, we are a strong political party in terms of all the forthcoming elections be it Lok Sabha or other local body polls.
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