Agartala, Oct 13: In an escalation of their demand for a separate Greater Tipraland state for tribal communities, the TIPRA Motha party, the principal opposition in Tripura, is gearing up for a significant rally. This party, led by Pradyot Kishore Manikya Debbarma, a scion of the state’s former ruling family, is resolute in its pursuit of tribal rights and autonomy. The rally, scheduled for October 14, will be held in Khumulwng, the headquarters of the party-led Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC).

A striking development is that Pradyot has confirmed the participation of Meghalaya Chief Minister and National People’s Party (NPP) leader Conrad Sangma, along with his cabinet ministers, in the October 14 public meeting. Sangma’s presence as the chief guest underscores his support for the Motha’s cause of Greater Tipraland.

Pradyot, in an audio message, extended an invitation to individuals from all political affiliations to join the rally, emphasizing the significance of the occasion. “For the first time, a Chief Minister of a state will attend the rally of a Tripura regional party with his cabinet ministers to show solidarity with us,” he noted.

Conrad Sangma’s participation in this event holds notable implications, given his status as a key ally of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in the Northeast region. The NPP, which he leads, has a presence in several northeastern states, including Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, and Manipur. Sangma has expressed intentions to expand the NPP’s reach beyond the Northeast into states with substantial tribal populations, such as Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh.

Pradyot, a former Congress leader, founded the tribal TIPRA Motha party in 2021, initially championing the cause of Greater Tipraland. The demand underwent several iterations and ultimately evolved into a quest for an autonomous state. The party’s swift rise was evident when it secured a significant number of seats in the ADC (Autonomous District Council) polls held just two months after its formation.

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In the state assembly elections held in February of the same year, the ruling BJP secured a simple majority with 32 seats, aided by its ally, the Indigenous Peoples Front of Tripura (IPFT), which won one seat.

Making its electoral debut, the TIPRA Motha party emerged as the second-largest party, securing 13 seats. In contrast, the CPI(M) and the Congress, who had formed an alliance for the elections, managed to secure 11 and 3 seats, respectively. Despite its substantial presence, the Motha party could not play the pivotal role in government formation that Pradyot had aspired to, necessitating a delicate balancing act between the ruling BJP and the opposition Congress and CPI(M)-led Left.

Following the elections, the Motha party engaged in discussions with the BJP-led central government regarding its Greater Tipraland demand. Meetings were held with Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Northeast Advisor to the Ministry of Home Affairs A K Mishra, and Assam Chief Minister and North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) Chairperson Himanta Biswa Sarma.

The Motha party also entered into an understanding with the Congress and the CPI(M) during the Assembly by-elections in August, refraining from fielding candidates to enable direct contests between the CPI(M) and the BJP. The latter emerged victorious in these by-elections.

Recently, Pradyot was reportedly approached by the Congress leadership, who sought his return to the party in a significant role. Although the Motha party has not officially commented on these overtures, sources close to Pradyot indicated that he was not ruling out such a possibility.

Pradyot’s family has a long-standing connection with the Congress, with his mother, “Rajmata” Bibhu Kumari Devi, having served as a Congress MP and minister in the state’s Congress-Tripura Upajat Juba Samiti (TUJS) coalition government from 1988 to 1993. His father, Kirit Bikram Kishore Manikya Debbarma, was also a Congress MP.

The Motha party’s upcoming rally on October 14 follows a successful dawn-to-dusk strike held on September 30 across the TTAADC region in support of the Greater Tipraland demand. The party is eager to maintain the momentum of its statehood movement.

The Motha party has also raised concerns about the TTAADC’s financial struggles since it assumed power in the tribal district council two years ago. Pradyot has repeatedly accused the BJP-led state government of not providing adequate funds for the council’s effective functioning.

Pradyot’s warm relations with the Sangma family may explain Conrad Sangma’s participation in the Motha party’s rally. Both Pradyot and Conrad are young politicians dedicated to advancing regional interests, which can sometimes diverge from the national parties like the BJP and the Congress.

The participation of tribal parties in Northeast politics is evolving, and some have expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of meetings convened by the BJP-led NEDA since ethnic clashes erupted in BJP-ruled Manipur in May.

This has spurred discussions about forming a larger regional political platform. Pradyot’s connections with leaders of several northeastern parties in states like Meghalaya, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, and Assam suggest a growing trend toward regional alliances in Northeast politics, potentially marking a paradigm shift in the region’s political landscape.