Biplab Deb expands cabinet, seeks to stem dissent by inducting rivals

  • | Tuesday | 31st August, 2021

Agartala, Aug 31 (PTI) Biplab Kumar Deb, heading the first BJP government in Tripura, expanded his cabinet on Tuesday with the induction of three ministers, including two from the rival camp, as the saffron party braced itself for the assembly polls due in 2023. Two of the three new faces--Ramprasad Paul and Sushanta Chowdhury--belonged to the dissident camp led by former health minister Sudip Roy Burman. Governor Satyadev Narayan Arya administered the oath of office and secrecy to Paul, Chowdhury and Bhagban Das at the Raj Bhavan. They are yet to be allocated portfolios. With the expansion of the cabinet, the first in over three years, the government has 11 ministers. Under the norms based on the strength of the legislative assembly, Tripura can have 11 ministers. The state has a 60-member assembly and the BJP, in a surprise performance, had won 36 of the 59 seats where elections were held, clinching nearly 43 per cent of the votes in 2018. The Left Front, which ruled the state for decades, won just 16 seats, marking a gigantic shift in the political landscape. Burman, a former state Congress president, who had joined the BJP before the 2018 windfall election for the saffron party, led a group of five BJP MLAs in a virtual revolt and said last Sunday they have identified certain "mistakes" of the Biplab Deb government about which they will inform the BJP central leadership. Burman, who joined the TMC in 2016 and shifted to the BJP in 2017, was rewarded with a ministerial berth but was dropped later on the charge of anti-party activities. He also led a delegation of MLAs for a meeting with BJP president JP Nadda in New Delhi and claimed the Deb governnment was plagued by "bad governance", which could lead to the party"s defeat in the 2023 assembly polls. "I am not in touch with them and none of them has contacted us. I am comfortable where I am," Burman said tersely when asked about the possibility of his return to the TMC but speculation about his joining Mamata Banerjee"s party is rife. With his party in Tripura in turmoil, Nadda dispatched a host of BJP leaders including national general secretary Dilip Saikia, BJP North East zonal secrtary (organisation) Ajay Jamwal, Tripura in-charge Vinod Sonkar and general secretary (organisation) Phanindranath Sarma to Agartala on Monday. The central leaders went into a huddle with the party"s core committee members including the chief minister, his deputy Jishnu Devbarma, state BJP president Manik Saha and union minister Pratima Bhowmik, in an aparent effort to stem dissent. Fresh from an astounding victory in West Bengal, TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee has sent her party leaders, including Lok Sabha MP and nephew Abhishek Banerjee to fish in the troubled waters of Tripura which has a large Bengali speaking population. Several middle and small level BJP leaders quickly shed their newly acquired Hindu right leanings and embraced the TMC, prompting the BJP leadership to sit up and take notice. The phenomenal rise of the newly formed Tipraha Indigenous Progressive Regional Alliance of Pradyot Bikram Manikya Debbarma, the scion of the erstwhile royal family of the state, which mauled the BJP and its allies in the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC) elections held in April, became an added concern for the BJP. Debbarma, a former Tripura Congress chief, is a cousin of Union minister Jyotiraditya Scindia. Though Debbarma himself quit the Congress, he was critical of Scindia joining the BJP. The area under TTAADC comprises two-third of the state"s territory and is the home to tribals, who constitute one-third of Tripura’s population. PTI JOY KK SK SK SK

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