Tripura Parties’ Ally With BJP, Congress: Pre-Poll Activities Pick Up

With the political activities gradually picking up ahead of the crucial assembly elections in February in Left-ruled Tripura, tribal parties are negotiating with the BJP and Congress for electoral alliances informed sources said on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) President Amit Shah began a three-day tour to Meghalaya and Tripura on Saturday to formally kick off the party’s election campaign in the two northeastern states.

Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) politburo member Brinda Karat is now on a five-day election campaign in Tripura while party General Secretary Sitaram Yechury has already addressed a central election rally in Agartala earlier this week.

Assembly polls would be held in three northeastern states — Tripura, Meghalaya and Nagaland — with 60 assembly seats each, in February. The five-year terms of the Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura assemblies would expire on March 6, 13 and 14, respectively.

While the Left Front holds power in Tripura, the Congress is in power in Meghalaya and the Naga People’s Front-led Democratic Alliance of Nagaland (DAN) in Nagaland. The DAN is supported by the BJP.

Tripura’s main tribal based party, the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT), which has been agitating since 2009 for upgrading the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council into a separate tribal state, held a series of meetings in New Delhi on Thursday and Friday with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Minister of State for PMO Jitendra Singh and central BJP leaders.

Assam’s powerful minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who holds the Finance, Health and Family Welfare and Education portfolios in the BJP government, arranged these politically significant meetings.

Sarma, who is also the convener of the BJP-led North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) anti-Congress front, is the party’s election in-charge of Tripura.

“Our meetings about our separate state demand with the Prime Minister, Union Home Minister and other ministers and BJP leaders are positive. The Union Home Ministry would announce a committee on January 8 about our long pending demand,” IPFT’s President Narendra Chandra Debbarma told IANS over phone from Delhi.

Leading a ten-member IPFT delegation to Delhi, the veteran tribal leader said: “After returning to Agartala, we would hold meetings with the state BJP leaders to finalise the electoral alliance and seat sharing strategies. Now the long pending hurdles about the alliance with the BJP have been settled.”

Most of the political parties, including the ruling CPI-M, Congress and the BJP had earlier rejected IPFT’s demands saying it is not practical to divide the small state.

Two other important tribal based parties — Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura (INPT) and National Conference of Tripura (NCT) — have also started talks since Friday to form an electoral alliance with the Congress and Trinamool Congress (TMC) in Tripura.

The INPT and NCT also opposed the IPFT’s separate state demand.

“We are holding talks with the Congress and TMC leaders to form an anti-BJP and anti-Left electoral alliance to fight against both the ruling Left Front and opposition BJP,” INPT spokesman Srota Ranjan Khisa told IANS.

A top official of the Tripura Election Department said that the Election Commission likely to announce the election schedule in Tripura, Meghalaya and Nagaland next week.

After about a four-and-half-month-long summary revision of the voters’ list, the final photo-affixed electoral rolls were published on Friday simultaneously across Tripura with January 1, 2018, as the qualifying date of age.

“With the regular instructions from the Election Commission, we are readying ourselves to conduct the elections in the state. The commission is in close touch with us about the preparations of the elections,” Tripura Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Sriram Taranikanti said.

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