ITANAGAR: With an eye on the Assembly election next year, the BJP in Tripura brought in Arunachal Pradesh chief minister, Pema Khandu, hoping to appeal to the tribal population of the state and consolidate its grip in the Northeast.

Khandu on Wednesday attended a BJP Janajati Morcha or ST Morcha Rally as chief guest at Agartala, hoping to sway voters in the Left-dominated state. The BJP recently opened its account in Tripura when six MLAs who just a year ago defected from Congress to the TMC joined the saffron brigade.

Incidentally, Wednesday was also International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples. While the Arunachal Pradesh chief minister attributed ‘accountability and transparency’ in governance as key reasons for the BJP’s coming to power in states across the country, the party will be hoping to appeal to the tribal population in Tripura which has witnessed violent ethnic clashes.

Last year in August, several people were injured at a rally organised by the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT) in the state’s capital, Agartala. The IPFT earlier this year had blocked the national highway railways movement for ten days.

The IPFT has been demanding a separate state- Tipraland – carving out from Tripura, claiming that the state’s tribal population is under threat from the majority ethnic Bengali population.

On Wednesday’s rally, mostly attended by the indigenous tribal populace, the Arunachal Pradesh chief minister said that stories of the “sufferings of the tribal community in Tripura made the people of Northeast ashamed when the Modi-led NDA government had been spending crores of rupees for development of backward classes and employment opportunity of the youths”.

Khandu, who until last year was with the Congress, said that the “previous Congress government (in the Centre) did not do anything meaningful for Northeast despite Dr Manmohan Singh being elected from the region”.

During the rally, which the chief minister’s office claimed as the “first time a mainstream party holding a huge rally for the state’s indigenous people”, Khandu said that he was confident that BJP will come to power in the next election.

“Tribals of the state seem to be the worst sufferers in the Leftist rule, not getting proper healthcare facility, drinking water and sustainable sources of income due to anti-tribal policies of the communist government,” Khandu claimed.

Meanwhile, BJP Tripura state president, Biplab Kumar Deb, said that the rally as a “beginning of the movement for 'communist-free Tripura”.

Over the last few years, the BJP has grown in Tripura, gaining traction among the tribal leadership.

The BJP has, in fact, seen a steady rise in its political presence in the region. The party came to power in Assam, winning the 2016 election which marked the first time it had been elected into office. On the last day of 2016, the BJP pulled a rabbit from a hat when 33 MLAs out of the People’s Party of Arunachal’s 43 legislators joined the party to take over the reins of the government.

In March this year when the Manipur Assembly election threw up a hung verdict, it was the BJP with the support of partners from the North East Democratic Alliance that went on to form the government and not the Congress despite it winning more seats.