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Tripura Bypolls: Large-Scale Voter Intimidation Reported in 2 Assembly Seats

In West Bengal’s Dhupguri, 75.82% votes were cast till 5 pm; ‘Outsider’ BJP leaders found during polling.
A security personnel stands guard as a voter casts his vote during the by-elections to Boxanagar assembly seat, in Tripura's Sepahijala district, Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2023.

A security personnel stands guard as a voter casts his vote during the by-elections to Boxanagar assembly seat, in Tripura's Sepahijala district, Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2023. Image Courtesy: PTI

Kolkata: The bypolls for two Assembly seats in Tripura’s Sepahijala district – Dhanpur and Boxanagar – allegedly saw open rigging and voter intimidation.

The Dhanpur Assembly constituency, once considered a Left stronghold, is seeing a straight fight between Kaushik Chanda of the CPI(M) and the BJP's Bindu Debnath. In Boxanagar, CPI(M)’s Mizan Hussain is taking on ruling BJP's Tafajjal Hussain, who unsuccessfully contested the last Assembly election from Boxanagar.

According to reports, in several places at Dhanpur,  where  bypoll are being held  after Central minister Pratima Bhowmik gave up her seat, polling turned out to be a “farce”.  Local people said the presence of BJP activists was seen within 50 meters of the polling booths right before the eyes of the Border Security Force (BSF), who were supposed to guard the poll process .

Polling agents were not allowed inside 36 booths in Boxanagar and 44 booths by the “outside goons” led by local BJP workers, alleged Left supporters. They alleged that voters who had been identified as CPI(M) supporters were not allowed to enter the polling booth premises to cast their votes.

“Violating all norms, voters were being forced to show who they voted for to BJP activists who were standing near the secret ballot enclosure,” alleged some voters.

It was also alleged that in several EVMs, the CPI(M) candidate’s button had been cello-taped so that voters couldn’t vote for him.

At around 11.30 a.m, both the CPI(M) candidates submitted a letter to the Chief Electoral Officer of Tripura urging him either stop the “farcical” bypoll or to maintain proactive police vigil.

According to the Election Commission, an average voter turnout of 76% was recorded till 3 p.m  in Dhanpur. There are about 51,000 voters in Dhanpur and 43,000 in Boxanagar.

According to PTI, six persons were injured in Mohanbhog in Dhanpur Assembly constituency, where some “villagers” also set fire to five motorcycles, triggering tension. 

The Congress and Tipra Motha did not field candidates in the two seats.

West Bengal: 76% Turnout in Dhupguri Till 5 pm

 Polling was by far peaceful in Dhupguri Assembly seat in West Bengal’s Jalpaiguri district.

Except a few cases of EVM malfunctioning, voting in the triangular contested seat was by and large peaceful.

However, two BJP leaders, including an MLA, who are not residents of the constituency, were found in a party office. One of them, the BJP district president, had to leave as he could not show any document allowing him entry into Dhupguri during the voting, said a PTI report. As per the rules, outsiders are not permitted to enter the constituency during voting.  

It may be recalled that in the last Assembly election in Dhupguri, the Left Front candidate had the deposit forfeited, with the ruling Trinamool Congress defeating the BJP.

This time, an energised LF has fielded Iswar Chandra Roy, a teacher and singer, who is also backed by the Congress. The TMC has fielded Nirmal Chandra Roy while BJP has  fielded  Tapasi  Roy.

Left activists alleged that during the last bypolls there had been “interchange of party flags” between TMC and BJP leaders. Mitali Roy, a TMC leader, joined BJP while the district president of BJP joined TMC. “Thus, barriers between TMC and BJP have broken down,” they alleged, adding that BJP this time was “banking on former terrorist groups, such as Kamtapur People's Party”, to draw votes.

There are about 2 lakh 69 000 voters in Dhupguri, which is a Scheduled Caste-reserved seat. It has nearly 50% Rajbanshi people and 15% minority population.

(With inputs from Rajesh Kar in Agartala and Sanjit Dey in Dhupguri)

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