Photo: Devid Debbarma.
Congress rules the roost in the politics of Northeast India. Out of eight states in the region, including Sikkim, Congress rules five. But one state where the Congress has not won since 1993 is Tripura, the only left ruled state in the country. Since 2008, Tripura has waited for the erstwhile Royal family scion Pradyot Manikya Debburman, the young face of Congress to take part in electoral politics, but the arrival has never taken place. Urmi Bhattacharjee speaks to the music crazy, football fanatic youth icon of Tripura on why he is one youth leaders of the Congress who refrains from contesting elections. Here are the excerpts from the exclusive interview:
In the Northeast it has been a trend to support Congress, since it has been in the Centre for more than others. Why is Tripura the odd one out in the Northeast?
Tripura is a state which has been affected largely due to its geography and isolation within the Northeast itself. Also the demography of the state is such that it is largely (at least politically) inspired by West Bengal. The left has definitely benefited from this isolation and vacuum, at the cost of Congress and BJP not being able to open their accounts in Tripura. As I said isolation from the rest of the region can also become a bane when it comes to world politics. But I must admit that when we did get a chance to rule the state, the Congress did a terrible job (1988-1993) and the people of Tripura have not revived their faith in us. This is the harsh reality, which is something we have to rectify. Though I must say, the Left front’s days are numbered in Tripura.
The tribal communities of Tripura have shown great trust in the Left, but critics often say that enough hasn’t been done for them. Why do the tribals continue supporting the Left?
When you do not develop the indigenous people of the state (tribals), they are less likely to question your policy. The Marxist have a lopsided development plan for the tribals of the state, and that is largely because no educated tribal will openly opt for a defunct ideology like the Left. In the last few years, if you see the survey the vote share amongst the tribals, it has gone up for us, although, it has not reflected on the seats. There is a lot of dissension within the tribal elements of the Left and they are bound to erupt in the near future.
Records say that in Tripura, the Congress has won the tribal reserved seats only when it fielded someone from the royal family. Why is there a desperate attempt to keep the royal family out of electoral politics in Tripura?
Perhaps they do not want people to question certain leaders on credibility and integrity. The role of my forefathers and my parents is out there to be seen. The erstwhile royal family of Tripura was known for its vision and governance. If certain people think that they can keep me away from my responsibility towards my people, then they are in for a rude shock.
You are seen as youth icon in your state. You have a huge youth following. What stops Congress from making you the face of the party in Tripura to dislodge the Left?
You must ask this to the leadership. I have never stated that I want to head the party in the state. I am clear on a few points, and that is that, before we take on our opposition parties, we have to get rid of wrong elements within the party. We cannot go to the people of our state with tainted individuals. Regarding leadership, we have capable leaders in the party and they must be given a chance.
People in Tripura expected you to contest the 2008 assembly polls after you joined the Congress party, but you didn’t contest in any assembly poll or Lok Sabha election thereafter. Why don’t you want to not take part in electoral politics when your party Congress is focusing on youth power?
In 2008, I was too young and my mother was still keen on fighting the elections. I have been very clear henceforth, that unless we do not wipe out certain elements from within the party, I cannot go ask people for something I cannot guarantee. After the 2013 election, I decided that I will remain in state politics and hence, I refused to contest the Lok sabha elections. I do not have any national politics ambitions and I rather stay in my area and do something worthwhile for my people. I have seen my parents as MPs and let me honestly tell you, that more can be done at home than some social gathering at south block. In the next elections, I will contest from any seat that my party asks me to. For me, Parliament is a ticket away from my people.
There are speculations that you were a given a party ticket, but you denied? Do you fear the well-entrenched support base of the Left and do not want to face electoral setback?
No I am not afraid of the left front. As you have already stated, the Congress party has always won the lok sabha seat whenever my parents have stood, which means that we do have our personal voter base. I would like to remain in the state and be the person who ensures that Tripura emerges out of the shadows of communism.
What’s your idea on Dynasty politics of the Congress? Why do you think BJP should not come in power?
Dynastic politics exists and I am not ashamed to admit it. Rather than being defensive, I would actually be proud of my linage. In India we are dynastic by nature and that’s the truth, whether it is the Bachchans , the Deols , the Ambanis, the Bajajs, the Birlas or the Scindias; there is a tendency to have expectations from certain families who have done their bit in their field of expertise. I bumped into a few students who were talking about how Arjun Tendulkar will carry on the mantle of his illustrious father after his retirement. This might happen, or maybe not, but eventually if the boy has talent and luck, he will succeed. But in the end, while the entry to politics, sports and business maybe easy, the struggle to be successful is just the same and it’s the people, circumstances and talent which will ultimately decides.
BJP is not coming to power in Tripura, and it’s our job to ensure it. If it is doing well outside, then the Congress must rethink why this is happening and rectify it immediately. Personally far too much importance is given to national politics when the reality is that the elections should be about local issues like health, education, unemployment, industry and lack of infrastructure. This is not a presidential election where a vote from Nagaland or Agartala will decide if Modi will become the PM. So asking me this question is perhaps overestimating my franchise to vote.