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No consensus with TIPRA on tribal state, Trinamool to fight 25 Nov Tripura municipal polls alone

Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress will contest all 51 seats in the Tripura municipal polls, the first time it will field candidates in an urban local body election outside Bengal.

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Kolkata: Trinamool Congress has decided to fight the upcoming Tripura municipal polls alone after failing to reach a consensus with the regional Tipraha Indigenous Progressive Regional Alliance (TIPRA).

The Pradyot Kishore Debbarma-led TIPRA refused to enter into an electoral understanding with the Trinamool without having a written assurance ensuring support for a separate state for tribals.

The Agartala municipal election, scheduled to be held on 25 November, is the first instance of Trinamool fielding candidates in an urban local body election outside West Bengal. Mamata Banerjee’s party is set to contest all 51 seats for the polls.

In the past four months, the Trinamool Congress — which recently defeated the BJP in a high-pitched electoral battle to return to power in West Bengal — has been seen foraying into two small states, Tripura in the Northeast and Goa on the western coast in an attempt to increase its footprint beyond Bengal.

While Goa is scheduled to hold assembly polls in the next three months, the Tripura assembly elections are scheduled for 2023.

Terming the urban local body elections in Tripura as “crucial”, senior Trinamool leaders told ThePrint, that this election will be like a “litmus test” for the party in Tripura.

According to a notification dated 27 October, issued by the Tripura State Election Commission, 20 urban local bodies — Agartala Municipal Corporation, the Municipal Councils of Dharmanagar, Kailashahar, Kumarghat, Ambassa, Khowai, Teliamura, Ranirbazar, Mohanpur, 13 Bishalgarh, Melaghar Udaipur, Santirbazar, Belonia, and the Nagar Panchayats of Panisagar, Kamalpur, Jirania, Sonamura, Amarpur, and Sabroom — will vote on 25 November.

The Trinamool has as yet announced candidates only for the Agartala Municipal Corporation election, while the TIPRA, with which Trinamool had initiated a discussion for an electoral understanding in July, has fielded candidates in five seats reserved for ST candidates in the Agartala Municipal Corporation polls and seven in elections for other urban councils in the state, including Ambasa.

Also read: Mamata ‘true champion’ — Tennis star Leander Paes joins Trinamool in Goa ahead of 2022 polls

‘Have huge respect for Didi’

Trinamool’s national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee is in charge of Tripura, while Sushmita Dev — a former Congress MP who recently joined the Trinamool — has been camping in the state for weeks now. The party has sent senior leaders like West Bengal general secretary Kunal Ghosh, ministers Bratya Basu, and Moloy Ghatak to Tripura to supervise the election preparations in the state.

“We are heavily invested here. Tripura is reeling under a spate of communal and political violence. There is no order of law here. This election is very crucial for us for our next political steps here,” Dev told The Print, alleging that party candidates faced resistance while filing their nominations for the Agartala municipal polls.

TIPRA chairman Debbarma, meanwhile, clarified that despite the Trinamool and his party not having entered into an alliance yet, there was “no animosity” between the two parties.

“We have huge respect for Didi (Mamata Banerjee). Our fight is against the BJP and for the rights of our indigenous people. Trinamool and TIPRA are two different political parties that believe in different ideologies. We are fighting for separate statehood, and we understand it is difficult for any party to come along on this,” Debbarma said.

“We do not have animosity against each other, but Trinamool is yet to garner a good support base here. Our support base is completely different and it is primarily among the tribal population. This is the first time that any tribal party is contesting an urban local body election in the country. So, we are contesting alone now. Even though we have seen that Trinamool has fielded candidates in the five ST seats, we are also contesting. But there is no counter-campaign against each other.”

TIPRA registered a massive win in the 28-member Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council this April, winning in 18 seats and ousting the CPM which was earlier in majority. The BJP had won nine of the 12 seats it contested for the Council.

Also read: Trinamool MP Sushmita Dev ‘dragged out of car, assaulted’ in Tripura, says attack pre-planned

‘People are disgusted with BJP’

Two months after TIPRA ‘s victory in the tribal body election, CM Banerjee and her nephew Abhishek had met Debbarma in Kolkata and initiated a political negotiation. Debbarma insisted that Trinamool has to support their separate TIPRA land demand in Parliament and give an assurance in writing.

The alliance talks have not progressed since, said a senior Trinamool leader, who did not wish to be named.

“We have decided to fight alone in Tripura. People are disgusted and disillusioned with the BJP’s Biplab Deb, the chief minister of the state. We are getting a very positive response as leaders and workers from Congress, CPM and BJP are joining us. One can see that we have announced candidates for all seats in the Agartala Municipal Corporation,” Dev said.

“The candidates stood up against BJP’s terror. We have nothing against TIPRA. They are fighting their battle for a separate state, we are fighting to dislodge the BJP. There has been no alliance talk as of now with any party in Tripura,” she added.

Both the Trinamool and TIPRA complained of BJP-led violence in Tripura and accused the ruling party of trying to stop them from filing nominations.

Sushmita Dev alleged that the BJP has been stopping the Trinamool from filing nominations in other urban body elections too (apart from Agartala), including Ambasa.

(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)

Also read: Goa’s GFP rules out merger with Trinamool, says Congress has till Diwali to finalise alliance


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