For his followers, he is the ‘Maharaja’ of Tripura, who is fiercely fighting for the rights of the indigenous people. Pradyut Bikram Manikya is also the chief of Tipra Motha, which demands a separate Tipraland.
Amid the campaigning for the bypolls on four seats, Manikya told News18 exclusively how government formation is not possible without their support, and they would support only those who promise “Tipraland in writing”.
Edited excerpts from the interview:
Why are you asking for Tipra Motha, a separate Greater Tipraland?
In a short interview, it is tough to explain the difficulty indigenous people of Tripura face after its merger into the Indian Union. But in short, Tipra Motha stands for the constitutional rights of indigenous people.
In India, the numbers are not with us, they are with the people who have maximum population and we have to safeguard our constitutional and political rights, largely because of migration of Hindus from East Pakistan now Bangladesh. We understand their problem, they should be given refugee status. However, this abnormal influx has caused indigenous people to end up on the wrong side and we have lost out on a lot of aspects — from economic development and education to language, identity and land rights.
The demand for Tipraland is to safeguard the rights of indigenous people without taking away the rights of the prosecuted Hindus who have come from East Pakistan. At times, there is a confusion. Just because we are demanding Tipraland as per our constitutional rights, does not mean that we want to take away the rights of people who have sought refuge in India.
We cannot criticise each other, we need to help each other. That is the only way of solving the problem.
‘Only CM Changed, Situation The Same’: TMC Blames BJP for Attack on Cadres in Tripura, Files FIR, Meets EC
Tipra Motha is now an umbrella and we speak for all marginalised people. We are a significant force. The other seat where Congress’s Sudip Roy Burman is contesting too is important. The fact that the Chief Minister too is contesting makes it significant. The main fight will be in 2023.
You have influence on 20 seats in Tripura. Do you have any plans for a pre-poll alliance?
We will go with any political party who will give in writing that they will give ‘Greater Tipraland’. If no one does that, we will fight the 20 seats reserved for tribals. However, there are 15 other seats where the tribal population is more than 35%. With this new equation of SC and Cha Bagan workers, our vote share goes up to 50%. We will be a significant player in almost 40 of the 60 seats. I did not enter politics for money. I have enough. We need to fight for our identity and legacy. If I do secret pre-poll talks with the BJP, which has the financial power, what will I tell my people? Why have we gone with them? People have supported me because I am fighting for them. How can I dilute that? A written assurance is a must.
What’s your take on the BJP’s change of CM?
They must have thought of something before changing the CM they have been projecting all this while. It’s a clear indication that something was wrong in the past four years. This has led to certain confusion and now a lot of CM aspirants are not happy with the new one. This will led to disruption and confusion. The instability is not good for the BJP and Tripura.
How do you see the TMC, which is focusing on Tripura?
I know TMC’s Abhishek Banerjee very well. I have met him. I have the highest respect for West Bengal CM Mamata di and Susmita Dev. I know what they are trying to do, but they have to work hard here. I don’t see polls in the Hindu Bengali belt. They need to get the Hindu Bengali vote. We have not had talks with them. I wish them all the best. If they give us in writing, we will go with them. Everybody knows our position.
Where does the Congress stand?
The Congress is great party. I left them because they treated me badly. People who said I would join the BJP have themselves joined hands with the party. When I was with the Congress, I increased their vote share. Now you see where they have gone. I have good relations with Rahul Gandhi, have respect for Sonia Gandhiji, I am very fond of Priyanka Gandhi. The Congress is in turmoil, they have to act together. They have to make it clear who the central leader is, till then the states will face the blues. They have a strong leader here in Tripura like Sudip Roy Burman and Birajit Sinha, but they have to sort out their problems. The Congress has to be revived centrally.
Will Tipra Motha will be the king or kingmaker in 2023?
I know about king, I don’t know kingmakers. Tipra Motha’s role is not just political, it’s our people’s identity. I don’t want to make money, I will leave politics after we get our constitutional rights. Without us, nobody can form the government in 2023. They will have to support our demand or we don’t mind sitting in the opposition. We will not sit in the government without getting a constitutional solution.