Manipur issue will be solved in due course: Tripura CM Manik Saha
Tripura chief minister Manik Saha added that the Bharatiya Janata Party is already making inroads into the tribal belt in the state
Tripura Chief Minister Manik Saha who led the BJP to power in Tripura earlier this year believes that the problems in the neighbouring state of Manipur “will be solved in due course”.
In an exclusive interview with PTI, Saha also claimed the BJP has been making inroads into the tribal belt in the state which till now has been in the iron grip of a tribal outfit Tipra MOTHA, which he feels is suffering from “its own problems”.
“It (troubles) has happened before in Manipur. I do believe in due course the matter (ethnic clashes) will be solved,” said the 70-year-old chief minister.
His own state, which has a long history of tribal insurgency and massacres, earlier this week witnessed demonstrations by Kuki and other tribes in the Jampui hills protesting the ongoing violence in Manipur.
The four-year-old Tipra MOTHA led by Prodyut Manikya Debbarma, a scion of the former ruling family of the state, and by Bijoy Kumar Hrangkhawl, a former militant, has been in talks with the Tripura government and the Centre seeking a tribal-controlled Greater Tipraland as well as more funds and autonomy for the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC) which the tribal party controls.
The Kuki and other tribal communities in Manipur where ethnic clashes have raged over the last three months, have also demanded a separate administration, a euphemism for separation or greater autonomy from Manipur as a solution to the race riots that are still surfacing.
However, till now the talks in Tripura have dragged on into a stalemate, while talks with Kuki leaders in Manipur are yet to begin.
Saha, a dental surgeon turned politician, however, feels that this will not upset the party’s applecart in the forthcoming 2024 Parliamentary elections, claiming that there are dissensions within Tipra MOTHA and hinting that its voter base may be eroding.
“They (Tipra MOTHA) have their own problems. We are gaining entry into tribal areas … We have our own strength through tribal organisations,” he said.
Tipra MOTHA had won 13 seats in the 60-member Tripura assembly and gained nearly 20 per cent of the votes cast, and is believed to have played a decisive role in the three-cornered elections, resulting in the defeat of many opposition candidates because of the vote share they gained in non-tribal majority constituencies. This helped the BJP secure its lead in these areas.
The RSS and BJP, on the other hand, have however been assiduously working among tribal communities and have spread out in most areas of the state. Both the Congress and CPI(M) too have influence of their own in the tribal areas. The Left party is currently led by a well-respected tribal leader Jitendra Choudhury.
Amid speculation that the Tipra MOTHA may join the BJP government as part of a ‘peace’ deal, Saha told PTI: “At present, we have no such proposal.”.
However, he kept the door open for future negotiations, smiling as he stated, “In politics everything is possible.”.
Saha, who was the surprise choice of his party to replace the first BJP chief minister - the younger but inexperienced politician Biplab Kumar Deb, also exuded confidence that his party will win both the Lok Sabha seats from the state, one of which is reserved for tribals.
“There will be no problems. Last time we won both the seats … this time we will win by a bigger margin,” he claimed, adding “The Prime Minister’s Act East policy has given us many infrastructure projects.”
The BJP has been showcasing its highway and railway constructions including a new railway line which will cut travel time to mainland India by going through Bangladesh in this and other northeastern states.
Saha pointed out that roads through “Sabroom in Tripura to Chittagong will give us connectivity to Southeast Asia on one side, while the railway line through Bangladesh will cut travel time to Kolkata.”