|Maharaja Pradyot Bikram Manikya Deb Burman at an election rally at Mandai in Tripura
The royal touch may have been missing from Tripura’s list of candidates for the just-concluded February 14 Assembly elections, but that did not stop the royal scion from campaigning for the Congress daily in the interior districts, interacting with the tribals and drawing huge crowds.
The last few days of campaign saw Maharaja Pradyot Bikram Manikya Deb Burman share the dais with AICC vice-president Rahul Gandhi at Kumarghat and Agartala's Astabol ground. Rumours of a rift with the PCC were set to rest when state Congress chief Sudip Roy Barman called him and CLP leaders shared the platform with Rahul and the 34-year-old king. The latter even went to Barman’s constituency in Agartala (from where his mother, Maharani Bibhu Devi had defeated Manik Sarkar in 1988 by 89 votes) to campaign.
The general idea among voters and the state Congress leadership appears to be that the young king could well be an asset to the party.
While the Congress has failed to win any of the seats reserved for Scheduled Tribes in 2008, it is unlikely to make any headway in these constituencies this year either. The party has not been able to reach out to the tribals the way the Left parties have nurtured this bastion over the years, since the time of Dasharath Deb and Nripen Chakraborty. It is here that the young king will be a boon to the Congress.
In the past couple of years, the Maharaja has learnt to speak Kokborok fluently. The rapport he has established with the Kokborok-speaking tribals makes him a huge crowd-puller at election rallies, a fact the Congress cannot afford to overlook. The Congress hoarding outside his residence in Agartala, the Ujjayanta Palace, says “More power to Tiprasi” (meaning empowerment of the sons of the soil). His easy accessibility is another factor that stands him in good stead.
With parliamentary elections in the year ahead, the royal factor is likely to play a crucial role.