“We want self-rule”: Pradyot Debbarma on his party’s victory in Tripura tribal council polls

01 June 2021

On 10 April, a newly formed political party swept the elections in Tripura’s Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council. The Tipraha Indigenous People’s Regional Alliance, or TIPRA, won 18 of the 28 contested seats, defeating the state’s ruling alliance of the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Indigenous Peoples Front of Tripura. TIPRA was founded as a political party on 5 February by Pradyot Kishore Manikya Debbarma, a member of Tripura’s erstwhile royal family.

Debbarma was formerly a member of the Congress Party and was appointed as Tripura’s Congress state president in 2019. He resigned the same year because of differences with the party regarding the National Register of Citizens and the Citizenship Amendment Act. The Congress had asked him to withdraw a petition he filed in the Supreme Court seeking the implementation of the NRC in Tripura. In September 2019, Debbarma wanted to protest against the CAA, but he claimed that the Congress asked him not to. Subsequently, he resigned from his post and from the party. In December 2019, Debbarma announced the launch of TIPRA as a social organisation aiming to work for the rights of indigenous people. In February 2021, he stated that TIPRA would contest the TTAADC polls as a political party.

In April, Kimi Colney spoke to Debbarma about his political journey, the reasons behind TIPRA’s victory, and the party’s current and future goals. “Our core ideology is Greater Tipraland,” he said. “We no longer want to be controlled by Agartala. We want to have our future of our own.”

Kimi Colney: You have won a landslide victory in the TTAADC polls despite being a newly floated party. What according to you is the major factor that led to your party’s win?
Pradyot Kishore Manikya Debbarma: We had a team of young faces. Around ninety percent of them were not from a political background, their uncles, fathers, aunts had no political positions. We had [people who were] 25-26 years old and 30-31 years old who were elected members. I would probably qualify as one of the oldest candidates at 42. We had a very positive campaign, we did not speak out against BJP, we did not speak out against the Communist [party] or the Congress. We offered the people, “this is what we will do.” I had resigned [from the Congress] on the principal ground [of the] CAA. Then I formed the social organisation called TIPRA.

Kimi Colney is a reporting fellow at The Caravan.

Keywords: Tripura Tribal communities regional parties