Agartala: With more tribal autonomy being viewed as a key issue, Tripura is set to hold its first EVM election on Sunday for its 30-member Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC), a constitutional body almost equivalent to state assembly.
Set up in 1982, the 30-member TTAADC has 28 seats filled through direct election while two members are nominated by the government. Twenty-seven seats in the council are reserved for tribals.
With 175 candidates in the fray, May 3 is likely to witness a multi-cornered contest which is being seen as a mini-general assembly polls in India's only Left-ruled state.
State Election Commissioner Sanjay Kumar Rakesh said a total of 758,554 electors, including 375,117 women, are eligible to vote.
According to the official, besides, four national political parties -- Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), Communist Party of India (CPI), Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) -- several local parties including Trinamool Congress have fielded their candidates for the elections to the tribal-dominated autonomous body.
Rakesh also said that for the first time, EVMs (electronic voting machines) will used in the TTAADC polls.
The TTAADC was formed in January 1982 under the seventh schedule of the Constitution and its authority was upgraded by amending the sixth schedule of the Constitution in August 1984 to protect and safeguard the political, economic and cultural interests of tribals, who make up one-third of Tripura's 3.7 million population.
The council covers two-thirds of the state's territory of 10,491.69 sq. km.
Allmost all the political parties are pleading for more power to the TTAADC, which currently administers 18 departments, including school education, primary health, forest, industry, tribal welfare, PWD, sports and youth affairs.
The CPI-M -led Left Front, which has also been ruling the TTAADC since 2005, has nominated candidates on all the 28 seats. The opposition Congress and the BJP have also fielded nominees on all the seats.
Two tribal-based parties -- Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura (INPT) and Indigenous People's Front of Tripura (IPFT) -- would also contest the polls on all the seats.
The CPI-M alleged that tribal parties, especially the IPFT, were trying to polarise people along communal lines before the polls by intensifying their campaign in support of a separate state out of the council areas.
The Congress allied with the Tripura Upajati Juba Samity (TUJS) in 1983 to gain tribal votes and ruled the north-eastern state for five years (1988-1993) before the CPI-M dominated Left Front returned to power after five years in 1993, with Dasaratha Deb, a veteran tribal leader, as chief minister.
TUJS, which was formed in 1967, shaped the INPT in 2002 with the Tripura National Volunteers, a former militant outfit-turned-political party. INPT snapped its decades-old electoral ties with the Congress in July 2014.
Since its formation in 1982, the Left Front ruled the TTAADC except in two terms -- 1990-1995 and 2000-2005. During 1990 to 1995, the Congress-TUJS governed the TTAADC and in 2000-2005 the IPFT ran the council.
In the 60-member Tripura assembly, 20 seats are reserved for tribals, who play a crucial role in Tripura politics.
Unlike the Congress and BJP, the CPI-M possesses a substantial base both among the tribals and non-tribals helping the Left party to govern the state since 1978 except for five years (1988-1993).
There are 16 autonomous district councils (ADCs) in north-east India, facilitating the socio-economic development of tribals, who make up 28 percent of the region's total population of around 45.58 million.
Of the 16 ADCs, mostly formed under the seventh schedule of the Constitutions, six are in Manipur, three each in Assam, Meghalaya and Mizoram and one in Tripura.
However, the ADCs formed under the sixth schedule of the Constitutions are more powerful than the ADCs constituted under the seventh schedule of the Constitutions.