Tripura Civic Polls: Rigging Allegations Loom Over BJP Win, TMC Opens Account
Both CPI(M) and TMC hurled allegations of intimidation of voters, attacks on their candidates by the BJP supporters
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won 329 of 334 seats or 98.5 percent seats in elections to 20 urban civic bodies in Tripura. In 112 or 33.5 percent seats, the saffron party won uncontested.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Front won three seats, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the Tipraha Indigenous Progressive Regional Alliance (TIPRA) Motha got one each.
Chief Minister of Tripura Biplab Deb said, “Referendum of Tripura Urban Local Body Elections declared today shows the faith of people of Tripura in the developmental policies of Hon'ble PM Shri Narendra Modi Ji.”
Was this a wave election? No, on the contrary, the outcome is alleged to be a result of rampant rigging, targeted violence against the opposition parties and intimidation of voters.
Barring Jammu and Kashmir, probably for the first time in India, on the Supreme Court's intervention, five battalions of central forces were deployed for civic body elections in a state.
Both CPI(M) and TMC hurled allegations of intimidation of voters, attacks on their candidates and polling agents by the BJP supporters. The Opposition also alleged that the police remained mute spectators even after they filed complaints. Even on the day of polling, Opposition candidates were attacked.
In most cases, the perpetrators did not appear to be locals, claimed the opposition. TMC alleged that 10 of their candidates could not exercise their franchise. Tapan Biswas, TMC candidate of ward number 51 of Agartala municipality was attacked by goons. Biswas suffered serious injury and is currently admitted in a government hospital in Kolkata.
Violence continued even after polling day, CPI(M) alleged that the house of Debashish Barman, one of their candidates for the Agartala Municipal Council was completely vandalised by the miscreants.
On November 25, after casting his vote, while speaking to the media, BJP MLA and former minister, Sudip Roy Barman said, “Biplab Deb could have won this election without frightening people. I have received many complaints. Complaints that are new to Tripura state and it doesn’t speak well of democracy. Even when Section 144 was imposed, outsiders from Ranibajar, Jirania, Udaipur, Kakraban, Bishalgarh violated it and entered Agartala. You know what the intention was."
TMC, which is on a mission to expand its footprint outside Bengal, opened an account in the civic poll by winning in ward number 13 of Ambassa Municipality.
Speaking to The Quint, Subal Bhowmik, TMC state convenor said, "Without proper organisation and manpower, our party secured a 24% vote share in the civic body election. This is because of BJP's misrule and unimpressed opposition (CPIM).”
We could have done a far better result if a free and fair election was held. Rampant rigging, targeted violence against opposition parties became the hallmark of BJP's election strategy. 10 of our candidates couldn't cast their votes. Women candidates were attacked, one of our candidates is currently admitted to the Kolkata hospital.Subal Bhowmik, TMC State Convenor, Tripura
TMC MP and national vice-president, Abhishek Banerjee said, “It is exceptional for a party beginning with negligible presence to successfully contest municipal elections and emerge as the PRINCIPAL OPPOSITION in the state, with more than 20 percent vote share.”
Banerjee’s claim that TMC had emerged as a principal opposition in Tripura is not entirely true. In the overall vote share, TMC clocked 16.39 percent while the Left Front clocked 19.65 percent. It needs to be noted that while Left Front fielded candidates in 212 wards where election took place, TMC could field candidates in 107 wards.
The Left Front secured second position in 149 of 212 wards it had contested, while TMC secured second position in only 56 wards. Once the principal opposition in the state—Congress withered further and came second in only seven wards.
However, in the prestigious Agartala municipality, TMC secured 20.1 percent vote share, while the Left Front which was running the board until now was pushed to third position with 17.9 percent. By winning all 51 wards of Agartala municipality, the saffron party made it an opposition-less civic body.
The Left Front won one ward each from Panisagar, Ambassa and Kailashahar municipal councils. While TIPRA Motha won a ward in Ambassa municipality.
Speaking to The Quint, CPI(M) state committee secretary Jitendra Chaudhary said, “People of Tripura have never seen such an election. All state machineries were used by the ruling party to ensure their victory. Our candidates were constantly targeted, our polling agents could not enter polling stations. Rampant rigging took place. This result is not a true reflection of ground realities.”
On TMC claiming principal opposition space in the state, Chaudhary said, “Would like to tell TMC people to quote election commission figures and not their own.”
A senior political analyst from the north-eastern state, who didn't want to be named said, “I know many people didn’t go out to cast votes fearing violence and consequences, even then the average vote polled is as high as 81.5 percent. People also feel that this election is futile as it won’t change the government. Ground situation is very different from the result, I will be surprised if BJP retains Tripura in the upcoming assembly elections.”
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