The IPFT, an ally of the ruling BJP in Tripura, threatened to launch a movement today unless an “inter-ministerial modality committee” was formed within the next three months and also demanded another cabinet berth in the Biplab Kumar Deb ministry. The “inter-ministerial modality committee” would study the socio-economic and cultural issues of the indigenous people of the north-eastern state, Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT) vice-president Ananta Debbarma told reporters here.
He claimed that the Centre had, on January 8, announced to form the committee after an IPFT delegation met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh in this regard. “We are waiting to be updated about the inter-ministerial modality committee, to be formed by the Ministry of Home Affairs. If it does not start functioning within the next three months, we shall launch a democratic movement,” Debbarma said. Demanding one more cabinet berth for the IPFT, he said, “There is a provision for a 12-member cabinet. Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb has filled up nine positions and kept three vacant. We were given two berths in the cabinet, we can get one more.”
In the 60-member Tripura Assembly, the BJP has 36 legislators, the IPFT eight and the CPI(M) 16. To a question, Debbarma said the demand for a separate “Twipraland” had emerged in the state in the late 1990s over the issue of backwardness of the tribal people, living mainly in the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC) areas. “We cannot just turn away from our demand, but now it remains to be seen how the modality committee studies our problems and how the Centre addresses our grievances,” he said. IPFT president NC Debbarma is the revenue minister and party general secretary Mevar Kumar Jamatia has been allotted the tribal welfare portfolio in the BJP-IPFT alliance government in Tripura. Asked if the IPFT did not trust its own ministers as regards tackling the issue of backwardness of the tribals, Debbarma said, “It is not a question of trust. The government will act in its own way and we will work in our own way. Ours is a political party and we shall continue with our movement till our goal is achieved.”