The Election Commission of India on Tuesday, May 7, ordered re-polling for 168 polling booths of Tripura West seat after political parties’ allegations of mass scale violence and rigging. In a letter issued to the Chief Election Officer of the state, the commission said that following reports by the CEO, Special Police Observers and the returning officer, the polling conducted in 168 booths remain void and fresh polling should be conducted at the booths on May 12, 7 AM to 5 PM. The Tripura West Lok Sabha seat had recorded a voter turnout of 83% when the constituency went to polls on April 11 in the first phase of Lok Sabha Elections.
The demand for re-polling had gained momentum after both opposition parties, Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Congress, had alleged foul play by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and State Election Commission. Demanding re-polling in 464 of the 1,679 booths for which voting took place on April 11, CPI (M) had sought resignations of S Taranikanti, the state’s chief electoral officer, and Director General of Police, AK Shukla.
CPI (M) state Secretary Goutam Das, in a statement had said, “A majority of voters could not exercise their franchise on April 11 and the Election Commission of India should take steps to allow them to enjoy their constitutional rights. We demand that the Election Commission issues instructions for re-polling in these booths. Moreover, if the Commission feels the need to conduct re-polls in the entire West Tripura constituency, we will surely welcome it.”
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The party had also levelled allegations that the scrutiny of the CCTV cameras installed at the polling stations was conducted in the absence of candidates. Similar allegations were also levelled by Congress which had said, "Report sent by the state election authority was submitted to ECI with the intention of suppressing the real fact of mass rigging."
The polls for Tripura East seat too, which had been postponed from April 18 to April 23 were deferred by the Election Commission in the third phase of Lok Sabha Elections, after it observed that the prevailing law-and-order situation was not conducive for holding a free and fair election. The returning officer of the seat in his report had said that unsocial elements may thwart the election process and demanded that additional central security forces should be deployed to ensure free and fair elections.
The violence unleashed during the elections by the BJP is not new in Tripura. Since the day the election result for the Assembly polls was announced on March 3, 2018, Tripura has seen a wave of attacks on the opposition, particularly on the CPI (M), by the BJP-IPFT (Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura) alliance. These include attacks on homes of CPI (M) workers, burning, looting and forceful capture of party offices and alleged murder of party workers, whose families have also been targeted.
Both the Lok Sabha seats in the state are held by the CPI(M). The Tripura West seat is witnessing a fight between veteran CPI(M) leader and sitting MP Shankar Prasad Dutta and BJP’s Pratima Bhowmik.
Read More: BJP Rule in Tripura: A Year of Attacks on Opposition, False Promises, U-Turns