We will get majority, IPFT has betrayed people of Tipra Motha: Pradyot Manikya to News18

One party has created quite a buzz ahead of the February 16 Tripura assembly election. There was a lot of talk about this outfit having a meeting with all national parties, but it finally decided to contest alone. The name of this party is Tipra Motha, which campaigns for a separate Greater Tipraland state for indigenous people. It was founded by royal scion Pradyot Bikram Manikya who was earlier with Congress. In an exclusive conversation with News18, he asserted that Tipra Motha will cross the 30-seat mark and, come what may, there will be no compromise on the party’s main goal. Edited excerpts:

Are you the kingmaker of Tripura this time?

There is no king in democracy. Kings are now gods, and I am not god, I am not kingmaker, I am just an important player. People will decide. Whatever attention I am getting is temporary, nothing is permanent. I only focus on keeping up with the hopes and aspirations of common people, who have given me this position today. One should not be arrogant, one should be rooted. That’s something that I am mindful of.

Why did the alliance talks with any of the parties not work out?

Because I don’t trust the word of politicians. That’s why I wanted them to give everything in writing. The moment they give us in writing about Tipraland, I will show it to my people, then it will become a transparent process. Then if my people’s leaders are convinced then of course we can have a talk but why are they reluctant to give a constitutional solution in writing? That’s because they have always told tribals something privately and done something different publicly. Today when they want to give us heaven, we want that in writing but they did not give in writing, which exposes them. My heart did not allow me to betray my own people.

Did you meet the home minister? Did you meet Himanta Biswa Sharma? What assurance did they give you?

The Assam chief minister is my old friend and colleague. We have worked together in the Congress. I have very good personal relations with Himanta Biswa Sharma. Friendship has nothing to do with what we are doing here. Friendship aside, I also have to answer to my people. I cannot betray my people.

How feasible is the demand of another state and what assurance has MHA given you?

I have not met the home minister, I have met officials of MHA, and the fact is that we have put our demand and that’s our view. We want a constitutional solution that we have told them. Now if they have a better idea, they should give it in writing. We will talk but you cannot brush the issue under the carpet. Or you can pass an amendment in Parliament that every state has the right to demand a separate state under Articles 2 and 3 except Tripura because it’s not feasible. If you pass that, then we will not ask anything from you. Till the provision is there in Parliament, whether it’s Gorkhaland, whether it’s Kamtapuri, or Tipraland, everyone has the right to ask for a separate state no matter how small. Why did you create Sikkim? We are asking for something which is there within the purview of the Constitution.

What did the home ministry say to you?

They said they will prepare a draft and talk to us later.

You were not convinced?

I am an educated person, I don’t need money, God has given me enough. I have got enough properties. When I die, I will go up one day, I will not take money. I don’t want to betray my people, I want to make a good name, I want to have a legacy. People will say at least this man has done something for his own people. I cannot be like others to betray my own people. Regarding the home ministry, my heart did not allow it. Politicians don’t think from the heart. Maybe I am not a good politician, that’s why I think from the heart. I am not a good politician but I am a sincere leader. I can’t betray my people.

What happened with your deal with IPFT? Their phones were not reachable. What happened?

I knew what they were going to do, they compromised fully on the reason why they became a big party. They are completely sold out. I knew what they were going to do. They compromised fully and that’s why they became a big party…It’s like BJP coming out of the issue of Ram Mandir in Ayodhya. It will kill the BJP from the inside. I know IPFT was playing a bluffing game. I was just watching how they go to BJP. I thank the BJP as they have five seats for them. We are going to sweep there. I think they are going to lose their deposit.

Do you mean to say IPFT has betrayed you?

They have betrayed the people of Tipra Motha. They came on the same agenda and they have diluted it completely. The party which used to rule the hills now has settled for 5 seats. I feel bad for them. I know they will come back to us after the election. We will still forgive them. It’s a sad state of affairs for them.

Why will non-tribals vote for you? You are aiming for 30 seats; whom will you support in other seats?

What is ‘non-tribals’? They are Indians, they are part and parcel of Tripura. There is nothing to convince them. Why did ‘non-tribals’ vote for IPFT in 2018? They were asking for Tipraland. They were far more violent, they used to block roads, and Bengalis were targeted. Since we came to power in ADC, not a single Bengali has been targeted. I myself am a Hindu. I will never go against the Bengali Hindu community. I have never spoken against Muslims because we have grown up in a different environment. It was more secular in outlook. IPFT was voted by non-tribals. The problem is the moment a regional party ties up with a national party, they go into a washing machine. They are secular, ‘sabka sath, sabka vikas’. It’s propaganda. My family has never gone against Bengalis. I am good friends with many Bengalis. I live in Kolkata. We had great relations with Jagdish Chandra Bose, Netaji, Rash Behari Bose and my grandfather were close. We are the first regional party to give tickets to Bengalis, no other party has done that. We have given tickets to Manipuris, adivasis. We are giving tickets to everyone. We are trying to change the political dynamics of regional parties in Tripura. I am sure a huge section of people understand that. Why are communists talking to us, why is Congress talking to us, why is BJP talking to us if we are untouchables? Because they have realised that Tipra Motha party under me will not have hatred for anyone.

If Greater Tipraland is formed, how will rights of Bengalis be secured?

They will be absolutely fine. The Bengalis, the Muslims, we have to think about them, they have been staying with us for long, and their rights have to be protected. Land has to be given to them. Bengalis, Buddhists, Christians all will be together and they will get all rights as per Constitution. We don’t want to make this like Israel. We don’t want to make this a state where we victimise people on the basis of religion. I don’t look at somebody’s beard or bindi and judge them as Muslims and Hindus.

What’s your stand on BJP?

Even in Assam, Congress and BJP are on the same side when it comes to CAA. There are certain problems and challenges in the Northeast where the dynamics of CAA are different from the rest of India. People of India should understand that people in Northeast have suffered a lot because of what happened to Hindu minorities in Bangladesh. What we are saying is, please accept Tripura as we have already accepted lakhs and lakhs of Hindu minorities from Bangladesh into our state. States like Mizoram, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh have never accepted Hindu minorities…they should take them. It’s unfair on us as we have already taken them.

What’s your take on the Left-Congress seat-sharing and the fact that they have approached you?

I am very pleased with the way Jiten babu (of CPM) has given us respect. He is the general secretary of the party. I think it’s a big departure as communists have always fought in Tripura against the royal family. Maybe it’s because I am a different person and I don’t enjoy the privileges of a raja. I grew up in Kolkata eating puchka. I also played football in Shillong. I don’t have historical baggage. Jiten Choudhury was very respectful and very nice. I met him a few times and we both agreed that tribal people need a better life and future and there have been mistakes made by all sides. With Congress, my fondness for Rahul and Priyanka will always be there. I have never spoken against them. It’s my former party. I really have a soft corner for Priyanka ji and Rahul, but these are all personal relationships. They cannot be bigger than the issue of my people. I would want to be friends with all rather than pretend to be enemies during the day and friends at night.

If after the results, the BJP needs numbers and the Left-Congress needs numbers, and if you get the numbers, whom will you support?

I think we will get a majority. If I say that we are fence-sitters, then it will be unfair to our party. If a situation arises, we will take a decision, but it’s very clear that till our demands are not in writing, we would rather sit in opposition or give issue-based support till our demands are given a constitutional solution. Please mark my words, they might come up with a solution that might be better than ours, they are far more intelligent, and they have far more manpower at Centre.

What’s your take on TMC?

I have a lot of respect for Mamata ji, and the way she fought against the Left. I remember the way she was beaten up, the way she rose is great, and she is constantly fighting. I have a lot of personal respect for Mamata ji, but the sad part is TMC is not a factor in Tripura. They are definitely a factor in Meghalaya, which is the other state where I studied. I know about their politics there. They are running well in Meghalaya. In Tripura, it would be difficult for them to gain ground.

How many seats will Tipra Motha get?

I think we will cross 30 on our own. We know our strength and weakness, we would like to cross the halfway mark. I want to say if you remain sincere, if you are dedicated, many people may not agree with me, but they know I am committed. We are the only party from the Northeast that went to Delhi in the last 8 years and came back without signing anything because we will not compromise. People know I am sincere and sometimes sincerity prevails over money.

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