In Tripura’s last tribal ruler Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya, the BJP has found a tall north-eastern icon.
Keen on breaking the Left Front’s dominance in the state, the party has decided to erect a bronze statue in King Bir Bikram’s honour, which will be 184 feet tall because he was the 184th king of the Manikya dynasty.
Similar to the statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel being built in Gujarat, the Bir Bikram’s will be called the ‘Statue of Unity’, in a bid to equate the two leaders from opposite ends of the country.
By “giving King Bir Bikram his due recognition”, the BJP hopes to “undo the neglect” of tribal royalty by the Congress as well as the Left Front that has been ruling the landlocked state for 23 years in a row.
“The Manikya dynasty deserves recognition for their contribution to the state in almost all sectors. Through the statue, we want the young generation to travel back in time to a glorious past, appreciate our tradition and learn about all our kings,” senior BJP leader Parikshit Debbarma told Hindustan Times.
Debbarma said funds for the statue would not be an issue with Tripura’s 37 lakh people likely to extend support for a regional icon neglected by other parties. “Besides, we will be approaching Prime Minister Narendra Modi for financial help.”
The statue is likely to be placed near Malancha Niwas, one of the palaces of the Manikya rulers in state capital Agartala. In 1919, Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore had stayed in this palace adjacent to the then ruler Birendra Kishore Manikya Bahadur’s private Kunjaban Palace.
The BJP has been targeting Tripura’s royal family that has since independence allied with the Congress.
The present titular king Pradyot Manikya is a Congress leader who has been nursing a grouse for not being made the state party chief.
His father Kirit Bikram was a Congress MP elected twice in 1967 and 1977 from East Tripura Lok Sabha constituency. His mother Bibhu Kumari Devi was the state revenue minister from 1988-91 before becoming a Congress MP.
The royalty, though, is central to BJP’s strategy of playing the tribal card in Tripura, a state often polarised between 19 tribes and the non-tribal Bengali population, mostly settlers between 1947 and 1971.
The party did fairly well in the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council election in May last year. The Congress, which was until then the main opposition party, failed to make a mark in any of the 28 council seats while the BJP emerged second behind the Left Front in most of the seats.