Guwahati: Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb is facing massive dissent amid the Covid-19 pandemic as a group of rebel BJP MLAs from the state are camping in New Delhi since Friday night to demand his ouster.
While it is unclear what triggered this sudden move, sources in the dissident camp told ThePrint there was growing dissatisfaction and anger in the state and within the party against Deb’s “dictatorial style of governance”, administrative inefficiency in healthcare besides “a range of issues”.
According to the sources, eight Tripura BJP legislators are scheduled to meet the party’s top leadership Monday and apprise the seniors of the situation. They are yet to get an appointment with the party high command. ThePrint has also learnt that three more party leaders will be reaching the national capital in the next two days. The dissident leaders are staying at the Tripura Bhawan Guest House at Chanakyapuri and Hotel Ashoka, the sources said.
Tripura BJP president Manik Saha, however, told ThePrint that there is no threat to the government. “There is no crisis, no threat to the government. Everything is fine,” he said. “There is some resentment among a few leaders, but they have not come to me with their grievances. I have come to know only through media reports.”
The CM’s office also maintained that there was no political crisis.
The BJP has 36 legislators in the 60-member House.
‘Deb has become unpopular’
Led by former Tripura Health Minister Sudip Roy Barman, the rebel camp includes Ramprashad Paul, Ashish Kumar Saha, Parimal Debbarma, Diba Chandra Hrangkhal, Burba Mohan Tripura, Sushanta Chowdhury and Ashis Das.
“He (Biplab Deb) has become very unpopular. People are disappointed. The Left government will be back if he continues,” one of the rebel leaders said on the condition of anonymity.
“We have unflinching support for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah. It is because of their constant endeavour that we could defeat the Left and form the government in Tripura,” he added. “But there are issues within the party that need to be addressed. I will have my fingers crossed… Let’s wait for a day or two for a clearer picture as we meet with senior party leaders.”
Last month, when ThePrint spoke to Sudip Roy Barman over the Covid-19 crisis in the state, he had remarked: “People don’t know whom to go to regarding health. Sometimes, the education minister who is the cabinet spokesperson addressed press briefings on health. The lone Covid-19 hospital in Agartala turned into a horror house — people dying, no treatment happening, no protocols followed, no infrastructure available. Basically nothing is happening.”
It has been over a year that CM Deb has taken charge of the health portfolio.
The political fortunes of some of the rebel leaders has ebbed and flowed with changes in Tripura’s political landscape — Ashish Kumar Saha, Sudip Roy Burman, Diba Chandra Hrangkhawl and Sushanta Chowdhury were among the seven former Congress leaders who joined the BJP in August 2017.
In March 2018, the BJP-Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT) alliance in Tripura won 43 of the 60 assembly seats, ending nearly 25 years of Left regime led by the CPI-M.
During the elections, almost 98% of Congress leaders and supporters joined the BJP. Before that, the saffron party had only 1.5% vote share in Tripura.
A longtime RSS volunteer, 48-year-old Biplab Kumar Deb was sworn in as the chief minister of the state’s first BJP government. He has since landed in controversy on a number of occasions for his outlandish claims.
He once claimed that the internet existed in the times of the Mahabharata, that ducks increase the level of oxygen in water bodies, and civil engineers make good administrators, not mechanical engineers.
In a recent statement, Deb called Sikhs and Haryanvi Jats “strong but less brainy” but later apologised.