His party Tipra Motha, which was born in 2021, finished just behind BJP in its debut outing this election. It gave the saffron party a run for its money in the 20 tribal reserved seats, for the second time in less than two years, riding the tribal statehood demand.
In the year of its birth, Motha had swept the tribal autonomous council election, defeating BJP, Congress and Left in one go.
“We are the second largest party so we will sit in the constructive opposition but will not sit with CPM or Congress. We can sit independently. We will help the government as and when they need,” the ‘Bubagra’ (king in tribal language Kokborok) said.
Of the 20 tribal-reserved seats, Motha won 13, while BJP had to be content with six. The IPFT, which is also a tribal-based party and ally of BJP, managed to win just one.
Five years ago, the tribals had overwhelmingly voted for BJP, ensuring victory in 10 seats, while IPFT had won eight. After its debacle in the autonomous council poll two years ago, BJP went all out to win back the tribal voters.
BJP promised more autonomy in tribal areas but was vocal against the division of Tripura to create a separate state for them, which might have backfired. Home minister Amit Shah, in his campaign, had attacked Tipra Motha, alleging that the royal scion’s party has a “secret understanding” with Congress and CPM and was “trying to bring back communist rule by misleading indigenous people.” Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma said BJP would never divide the “state built by kings.”
Tribal voters are the deciding factor in one-third of the assembly seats. In the past, whoever won the majority of these seats went on to form the government. It’s the same this time. Though the majority Hindu Bengali voters remained loyal to BJP, it wasn’t enough. BJP’s tally dropped by three seats.
The state’s tribal groups were ruled through the Manikya dynasty that started with Ratna Manikya in 1280 until the princely state merged with India during the rule of Bir Bikram in 1947. All his descendants have been titular.
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