Following the allegations of rigging during the Tripura West parliamentary seat polling, the Election Commission (EC) has postponed polling for the Tripura East seat from April 18 to April 23, citing the “law and order” situation.
Tripura West — one of the two Lok Sabha constituencies in Tripura — went to poll on April 11 under the first phase of the 2019 general elections.
But there were widespread complaints of rigging by the BJP — which had won the 2018 Assembly elections in alliance with the separatist Indigenous People's Front of Tripura (IPFT), after 25 years of the Left Front rule led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)].
Both the CPI(M) and the Congress have alleged “blatant rigging”, and demanded repolls.
On April 15, CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury submitted a memorandum to the EC with videos and photographs as evidence of the rigging. The party has demanded repoll in 464 of the 1,679 polling booths in Tripura West.
Yechury was accompanied by Sankar Prasad Datta, the party candidate for the Tripura West seat.
Also read: CPI-M Demands Repoll in 464 Tripura Booths
On April 16, the CPI(M) held mass sit-in protests in both New Delhi and Tripura’s capital Agartala (at Orient Chowmuhani).
The party also demanded increase in security arrangements during polling for Tripura East to ensure that rigging does not take place again, and “free and fair” elections are held.
After Yechury’s visit, the EC led by Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora held “a video conference to review poll preparedness in some constituencies of West Bengal and Tripura going to polls in the second and third phases,” according to IANS.
Former Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar, who is also a member of the CPI(M) politburo, said while addressing rally in Agartala: “The Left parties have given the EC specific evidence — a large number of videos and photographs — to prove how polling was turned into farce on April 11.”
The EC made the announcement on April 16 that polling for Tripura East — a reserved constituency for Scheduled Tribes — would be postponed from the second phase to the third phase.
“The law and order situation prevailing ... is not conducive to the holding of free and fair poll,” said the poll panel, as per PTI, citing reports of the state chief electoral officer and special police observer.
The returning officer had requested for additional central police force during polling for Tripura East, based on ground and intelligence reports suggesting that “miscreant elements” might hinder the process.
Tripura Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Sriram Taranikanti told PTI, “Everyone saw what happened during polling on April 11. I have travelled to different districts and saw videos where activities, which were against the rules of Election Commission of India, were seen.”
“We have forwarded those details to the Election Commission. We hope to develop law and order situation conducive for holding the elections on April 23,” added the Tripura CEO.
During the April 16 mass sit-in at Agartala, Sarkar, who was Tripura CM for 20 years, told the public:
“Avenge what was done on poll day in West Tripura seat. Don’t look out for police personnel. If attackers come in front of you, look them in the eyes. They will not find space to run away. Stand firm and stand determined. All voters are preparing themselves in this way in all booth areas (in East Tripura constituency).”
Also see: CPI(M) Protests Mass Violence in Tripura, Demands Re-poll