'If the government cannot deliver the goods for the tribal people, then definitely they will lose faith in the BJP.'
IMAGE: BJP supporters in Agartala celebrate the party's victory in the Tripura assembly election. Photograph: PTI Photo
N C Debbarma, president of the Indigenous People's Front of Tripura, is disappointed.
Two days after the Bharatiya Janata Party-IPFT swept the election in Tripura, Debbarma -- a former All India Radio staffer -- says the IPFT will support the BJP government from outside if it is not given respectable positions in the state government.
The IPFT came into being in the late 1990s on the back of its campaign for a separate state for tribals in Tripura, by carving out a Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council.
It successfully reflected the tribal population's fear that the indigenous people of Tripura would be marginalised by the influx of outsiders in the state.
The BJP surprised political observers on the eve of the assembly election by tying up with the IPFT. The outcome proved its calculations right.
In the 60-member House, while the BJP won 35 seats, the IPFT won 8.
Even as the election results were coming in on Saturday, March 3, the differences between the allies came to the fore, with Debbarma talking of Tipraland -- a separate tribal state -- a demand that is not in sync with the BJP.
On Monday, March 5, Debbarma announced that his party would not join the state government, but support it from outside, soon after which he spoke to Rediff.com's Syed Firdaus Ashraf.
Why have you decided to support the BJP government from outside?
It depends on the BJP strategy about the formation of the government.
The BJP has an absolute majority in the assembly and it may or may not induct our party in ruling Tripura state.
Is it true that you want a tribal chief minister for Tripura?
The tribal population has wholeheartedly thrown out the CPM (Communist Party of India-Marxist) out of power. And they have elected the BJP-IPFT in its place.
So there should be (at least) a leader of the House from tribal elected members. This is our position.
It is up to the BJP now whether they want to consider it or not.
Why did the tribals of Tripura dump the CPI-M this time?
They (the CPM) were dumped because of the partisan attitude the ruling government had for their party workers.
They were in power for the last 24 years or so and worked only for their party workers. This is the reason they were thrown out of power.
AFSPA (the Armed Forces Special Powers Act) was withdrawn from Tripura by the CPI-M government. Nowhere else in India has AFSPA been withdrawn after being introduced.
Surely that's a positive step. Why did the people of Tripura turn against the Left Front?
The entire tribal population was living in fear because the demographic structure of Tripura was changing more and more.
At some extreme future, the sons of the soil (of Tripura) will disappear.
There has to be a Constitutional provision to empower them (tribals) politically by creating a separate state.
Former chief minister Manik Sarkar was known to be very honest.
Manik Sarkar was very honest and sincere, but governance is a collective exercise.
If one person is honest and 99 percent are dishonest, then what can that one honest person do?
There was corruption and the CPM's attitude towards the people of Tripura was bad.
The Shiv Sena in Maharashtra has been outspoken about the way the BJP treats its allies, that it does not gives them much importance. Do you feel the same way already?
If that type of repetition is done in Tripura, then the IPFT will have to think again whether the alliance with the BJP will continue or not.
We will review it later if that happens.
Do you have any particular demand of the BJP?
It should not be a demand from one of the partners, but there must be a consensus of balance of power sharing.
The BJP is a different party and it is the characteristics of alliances that two parties must have mutual respect for each other.
The BJP must show mutual respect to alliance partners.
There is no question of demanding in an alliance as respect must be commanded and not demanded in such a situation.
What was your promise to the tribal people of Tripura?
We shall continue our peaceful democratic movement for the creation of Tipraland.
The BJP can form a government on its own, without your party, given its numbers.
It is true that it can form the government on its own, but it is for the BJP high command to decide whether it wants to continue with IPFT or not.
Individually, the BJP have got 35 seats and can form the government, but if the BJP wants an alliance then it must think of a long-time strategy.
Next year is Parliament elections. In 2020 there are local elections in Tripura.
We do not think the BJP alone can score good without the IPFT in Tripura.
Do you feel the tribals of Tripura will lose faith if you break up with the BJP?
Yes, that will happen.
If the government cannot deliver the goods for the tribal people, then definitely they will lose faith in the BJP.