In a major development that took everyone by surprise, Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Deb resigned on May 14, months before the State Assembly election. In a letter to Governor Satyadev Narayan Arya, Biplab Deb said: “I hereby tender my resignation from the post of Chief Minister, Tripura, with effect from 14.05.2022,” without giving any reason. The terse letter gave rise to political speculation about the reason. However, it is likely that he was acting on the instructions of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) central leadership.
Biplab Deb, who became Chief Minister in 2018 after spearheading the BJP’s triumph over the 25-year-old Communist Party of India (Marxist) government, had given no indication of what he was about to do. On May 14, after returning from a trip to Delhi, he went to the Raj Bhavan and submitted his resignation letter to the Governor.
Speaking to mediapersons, he said that he was asked by the BJP’s central leadership to focus on strengthening the party organisation ahead of the election. He said: “I have tried to ensure that the people of Tripura get justice, and worked for the overall development of the State and to bring about peace and stability. Now, with the election due in 2023, the party wants to place responsible people in charge of strengthening the party organisation.”
Bhupender Yadav, Union Labour Minister, and Vinode Tawde, BJP general secretary, who have been made central observers in Tripura, had arrived in the State before Deb handed over his resignation.
The political situation for the BJP in Tripura is already precarious. Apart from reports of bitter infighting, the emergence of a new political force among the tribal people, who account for around 30 per cent of the population, has become a source of concern.
The meteoric rise of the Tripura Indigenous Progressive Regional Alliance or TIPRA Motha, headed by Pradyot Kishore Manikya Debbarma, and the new party’s unwavering demand for the creation of Greater Tripraland, carved out of the areas under the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomic District Council (TTAADC) and some surrounding tribal-dominated areas, has changed the political dynamics in the State.
The tribal community’s support is vital in 20 out of the 60 Assembly seats in the State, and for the BJP and its ally, the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT), winning the tribal vote in the TTAADC area was crucial to defeat the Left in the 2018 election. The BJP-IPFT had won 17 of the 19 Assembly seats in the tribal belt then, but in the elections to the TTAADC in April 2021, TIPRA Motha won 18 of the 28 tribal council seats, while IPFT failed to win a single seat. However, with the IPFT's support, the BJP was able to win nine of the 11 seats it contested.
Suhrid Sankar Chattopadhyay