Polling has started in Tripura and the 60 seats of the northeastern state are voting in a three-cornered fight. The ruling BJP is facing the Left-Congress alliance on the one hand, and former Tripura royal family member Pradyot Bikram Manikya Deb Barma's Tipra Motha, on the other.
The voting is being held under tight security at 3,337 polling stations, out of which 1,100 were identified as sensitive and 28 as critical. As many as 31,000 polling personnel and 25,000 security personnel of central forces are deployed.
Votes will be counted on March 2.
Tipra Motha to spoil BJP's party? The Tipra Motha Party (TMP), also known as the Tipraha Indigenous Progressive Regional Alliance, is a regional political party and previously a social organization started in 2019. Royal scion Pradyot Bikram Manikya Deb Barma is the chief of Tipra Motha Party (TMP), but he is not contesting in the assembly polls. Pradyot, and his party has demanded a separate state for indigenous communities, 'Greater Tipraland', and he has seen massive support in the state, especially in the tribal areas.
- In the 2018 assembly polls, the BJP had come to power with a strong majority of 36 seats, half of which were won from the tribal areas. The BJP had secured a 43.59 per cent vote share in 2018 compared to CPI(M)'s 42.22 per cent vote and 2 per cent of the Congress.
- But this time the situation has changed to an extent. Pradyot and his party have campaigned extensively and aggressively in the tribal areas, which form around 32 per cent of the state's population. His rallies saw a huge turnouts of people. And if it turns out in votes as well, even just in the tribal areas, the Tipra Motha Party can stop BJP's winning run.
The wild popularity of 'Bubagra' Pradyut: Many still address Pradyut as Maharaja (king), and, whenever he came to address rallies, the people burst into cheers of 'Bubagra (Raja)'. He enjoys huge popularity amongst his Tiprasa people.
- He has even claimed his party's campaign for upcoming polls drew more crowds than Prime Minister Narendra Modi's rally. And due to his popularity, many are seeing him to emerge as a kingmaker in the state.
- BJP, at times, has tried to build a rapport with him, but it did not work out. And Pradyut has said that the party will not be part of any government which does not agree to their demand of Tiprasa, a separate state.
The royal in BJP camp: It's not that Pradyot is the only royal scion who has an influence in the Tripura elections. As the BJP is facing a challenge by the Tipra Motha Party, another member of the former royal family, Deputy Chief Minister Jishnu Dev Varma, has turned out to be the trump card for the party. He has been a long-time BJP loyalist and helped the party get legitimacy in the state before its victory in 2018.
- In 2018, he defeated his rival in his Charilam seat by the biggest margin of the election of 26,580 votes. Since then, he has held key portfolios like Finance, Power, and Rural Development in the state.
- The 65-year-old is the uncle of the current head of the royal family Pradyota, and his popularity may have helped BJP to limit the damage done to its vote share by the Tipra Motha Party chief.
The Tripura Royals: The Tripura Royal Family is the former ruling family of Tripura, which was a princely state during the British Raj. The kingdom was ruled by the Manikya dynasty, which claimed its descent from the Sun god.
- The kingdom of Tripura was founded in the 14th century by King Ratna Manikya, who was a member of the Twipra Kingdom. The Manikya dynasty ruled Tripura for more than 500 years until India's independence in 1947, when the kingdom merged with India.
- The last ruling king of Tripura was Maharaja Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya Bahadur, who ascended the throne in 1923 and ruled until his death in 1947. After India's independence, the royal family was granted a privy purse and other privileges by the Indian government. The last ruling king's son, Kirit Bikram Kishore Manikya, served as the governor of Tripura from 1956 to 1967.
- Today, the Tripura Royal Family continues to be prominent in Tripura's social and cultural life. The family has also played an important role in the development of the state's infrastructure, including the construction of the Ujjayanta Palace, which is now a museum showcasing the region's cultural heritage.
Where the parties stand in the state: Under Chief Minister Manik Saha, the BJP is contesting on 55 seats, its ally IPFT (Indigenous Progressive Front of Tripura) has fielded candidates in six constituencies, while there will be a friendly fight in one seat.
- The CPM, which ruled Tripura for 35 years, has joined forces with the Congress this time, and its campaign is being led by its four-time Chief Minister Manik Sarkar.
- The CPI(M) is contesting in 47 seats while its alliance partner Congress is fighting in 13 constituencies. The Tipra Motha has candidates in 42 seats.
- The Trinamool Congress has fielded nominees in 28 constituencies while there are 58 independent aspirants.