BJP plans to expand domination in NE’s tribal areas as well: Analysts

By Sujit Chakraborty
Guwahati/Agartala, Dec 14 : The BJP has dumped its old ally in the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) polls in Assam and ignored its partner’s willingness to share seats in the upcoming polls in Tripura tribals’ autonomous body aiming to strengthen its domination on its own in the tribal areas of northeastern region, political observers say.

In the BTC polls, held last week, the Bharatiya Janata Party, which heads Assam’s ruling coalition, entered resoundingly into the Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR) comprising four districts — Kokrajhar, Chirang, Baksa and Udalguri – by wining nine seats in the 40-member council as against one in 2015.

It fought against the Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) despite ruling Assam together since 2016 along with the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP).

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The Hagrama Mohilary-led BPF, which has been ruled the BTC ever since 2005 after the tribal autonomous body was constituted in 2003 as a political solution to Bodo agitation for a separate state, won 17 seats this time while UPPL (United People’s Party Liberal) got 12 seats. The opposition Congress and Gana Suraksha Parishad managed to get one seat each.

The BJP after the outcome of the BTC polls on Sunday, dumped the BPF and announced to support its new ally UPPL and GSP to take power in the BTC.

The BPF, after the poll outcome, repeatedly urged the BJP leaders to maintain their alliance in the BTC and the state government.

Political observer and writer Ratnadeep Chowdhury said that there are 14 assembly seats in BTR and the BJP’s performance in the last assembly polls in 2016 in the region was very poor as its ally BPF had bagged 12 seats.

“To establish its own political base in the tribal dominated BTR, the BJP this time discarded BPF and announced to support its new ally UPPL to take power in the politically important BTC,” Chowdhury told IANS. He said that as the UPPL is a new political formation, it would be largely dependent on the BJP ensuring the saffron party’s political expansion in vital tribal areas.

The BJP had wrested power from the Congress in Assam in 2016 by becoming the single largest party with 60 MLAs in the 126-member Assembly and formed an alliance with the BPF and the Asom Gana Parishad, which won 14 and 12 seats, respectively. The ruling alliance also has the support of an Independent MLA.

The BPF has three ministers in Assam government headed by Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal.

Assam’s powerful Finance and Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who is also the convener of the BJP led North East Democratic Alliance, however, clarified that BJP-BPF alliance would continue until the next Assembly polls due in April-May next year and it could not be declared now that whether the alliance would continue after that.

Like the BPF in Assam, the BJP has been dealing in similar style with its junior ally Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT) in Tripura.

IPFT President and Revenue Minister Narendra Chandra Debbarma said that despite their repeated appeal, the BJP leadership in Tripura and at the center did not yet disclose the seat sharing pattern and ratio in the upcoming polling to the TTAADC (Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council), which is now under the Governor’s rule.

“After getting no response from the state leadership, delegations led by our party’s General Secretary and Forest Minister Mevar Kumar Jamatia went to Delhi three times and urged the BJP’s central leaders including President J.P. Nadda to finalise the seat sharing for the TTAADC polls. But, unfortunately, the BJP leadership remained quiet on our repeated requests,” Debbarma told IANS.

In contrast, the BJP leaders already declared that they would put up candidates in majority of the TTAADC’s 28 seats.

The BJP, in alliance with the tribal-based IPFT, handed a humiliating defeat to the Communist Party of India-Marxist led Left Front in the 2018 Assembly polls after 25 years. In the 60-member Tripura Assembly, the BJP won 36 seats and the IPFT eight, while the CPI-M, the dominant party of the Left Front, secured 16 seats. The IPFT has two ministers in the BJP led government headed by Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb.

The IPFT has been agitating since 2009 for creation of a separate state by upgrading the TTAADC, which has jurisdiction over two-thirds of Tripura’s 10,491 sq km area which is home to over 12,16,000 people, 90 per cent of whom are tribals. The politically important TTAADC, which was mostly governed by the CPI-M led Left Front, was constituted under the sixth Schedule of the Constitution in June 1985.

Political commentator and writer Sanjib Deb said that BJP may execute the BTC poll strategy in the TTAADC elections. “After establishing its domination among the non-tribals in the northeastern region, the BJP is trying to strengthen its base in the tribal areas too. The BJP is trying to utilise royal scion Pradyot Bikram Manikya Deb Barman as the tribals have their affinity to the former royal dynasty until the erstwhile princely ruled Tripura merged with the Indian union in October 1949,” Deb told IANS.

Like his parents, Deb Barman was a Congress leader and party’s state President but he quit the party earlier this year over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) issue.

Besides Assam and Tripura, the ruling BJP has been trying to gain its political base among the tribals in Manipur too. The party has recently wrested four Assembly seats from the Congress in Manipur where by-elections to five assembly seats were held last month.

Of the 45.58 million populations in eight northeastern states, around 28 per cent are tribals with five of the eight northeastern states, the majority of the populations are tribals.

(Sujit Chakraborty can be contacted at sujit.c@ians.in)

Disclaimer: This story is auto-generated from IANS service.

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