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Tripura Civic Polls: Big-Time Voter Intimidation by Ruling BJP-IPFT Members, Alleges Opposition

Reports of violence despite SC directive to MHA for 2 additional companies of Central forces after CPI(M), TMC complain of breach of law & order

Kolkata/Agartala: Tripura on Thursday saw civic polls that local residents said was “never witnessed in decades,” with the Opposition Left Front and Trinamool Congress (TMC) accusing the ruling BJP and PFT members of voter intimidation and violence.

This is despite the Supreme Court on Thursday directing the Union Ministry of Home Affairs to provide two additional companies of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) to secure every polling booth during the Tripura municipal polls.

The apex court had given the directive following TMC abd Communist Party of India (Marxist) told a bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, Surya Kant and Vikram Nath that since the polling began Thursday morning, their candidates and supporters had not been allegedly allowed to cast their votes and there was a “serious breach of law and order.”

According to local residents in some booths, BJP “hooligans took over control” of some urban areas, alleging that woman voters were particularly debarred from voting. There were report of violence and “mob takeover” of polling from many of the wards, even though the state election commission secretary Pallab Bhattacharya claimed that “all is well” and there was no complaint of voting irregularity till the afternoon.

Lashing out at the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura Alliance for “making a farce of democracy”, CPI(M) state secretary Jitendra Choudhury said “in broad daylight, democracy has been tarnished in the state like never before in the civic polls”

“This is Tripura after 44 months of BJP rule. Democracy does not exist here. The Constitution is inactive here, even after directives from the honourable Supreme Court and High Court,” he said.

Choudhury, who is also a former Lok Sabha MP, said Tripura was being turned into a “specimen of Hindu Rashtra. They are trying to induce fascism in the country by making Tripura a laboratory”.

The CPIM) state secretary said the police was saying that it was addressing complaints “but they are not responding to frantic telephone calls made by our party”.

Some local party functionaries alleged that such incidents began Wednesday night as “armed BJP members started taking control of the urban areas going to vote.”

 “Around 1.50 pm Wednesday, CPIM)’s Rudyjola area committee member Soumendrapal (Bhima) was attacked brutally by BJP members. He was critically injured. In Arabindapally (ward no 3), Jagannathbari (ward no 2) Palpara (ward no 13) there were report of “bombing” throughout the night with the state police playing hide and seek through the night,” CPI(M) sources alleged.

The Left Front is contesting eight seats out of 11 seats going to polls in Mela Ghar municipality. In Sonamura, where CPI(M) is fighting in all the wards, the party alleged that its agents “were thrown out” from the polling centres.

In ward number 14 in Badharghat municipality,  BJP MLA Mimi Majumdar reportedly led an attack  on the house of Nabakumar Saha, leader of the Democratic Youth Federation of India. Even the house of a relative of BJP MLA came under attack because they were “known Left supporters,” Left sources said.

In Agartala municipal corporation, there were reports of obstacles being created for voters from most booths.  

In Dharmanagar, too, all polling agents of Opposition parties were thrown out and even candidates were forbidden from going to polling booths, he Opposition alleged.

Incidents of violence against women and beating up of polling agents were reported from some wards in Dharmanagar and Billonia.

On Thursday, the SC bench had noted that since the state government had submitted before the High Court that there was no coverage of CCTV cameras in polling booths, it was allowing unhindered access of print and electronic media during the civic polls. But this was not followed, the Opposition alleged.

CPI(M) to File Plea in SC for Stalling Civic Poll Process 

The CPI(M)’s Tripura unit has demanded a repoll in five municipal bodies that had gone to election and has also demanded partial repoll in four more municipal bodies.

At a press conference in Agartala, the Left party said it decided to go to the Supreme Court with a petition to stall the election process and will file a contempt petition because the state government did not pay heed to the earlier directives of the apex court. The party said it would also petition the Election Commission on the same. 

Meanwhile, the Left Front has also decided to boycott the counting process in the five municipal bodies where repoll has been sought. These include wards in Agartala municipal corporation Bilonia municipality,  Dharmanagar, Khowai and Melaghar.

Inputs from Shantanu Sarkar, a senior reporter with Desher Katha and PTI.

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