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TMC claims Tripura civic polls rigged

TMC claims Tripura civic polls rigged

Agartala, Nov 25: Claiming that widespread rigging and voter intimidation marred the closely contested elections to civic bodies held on Thursday, opposition parties - CPI(M) and the TMC - demanded the polls which witnessed over 81 per cent voting, be countermanded.

Officials said an estimated 81.54 per cent of over 4.93 lakh voters exercised their franchise in Thursday's elections to Tripura's 14 civic bodies despite the allegations of malpractices.

The ruling BJP, which has fielded candidates in all seats in Tripura civic elections, has already won 112 out of the total 334 seats uncontested in the Agartala Municipal Corporation (AMC) and 19 urban bodies.

The electoral battle saw the ruling BJP locked in battle with the Trinamool Congress which is foraying into the Northeast and elsewhere to establish itself as a national party, and with the CPI(M) which the saffron party had dethroned from power in this state some years ago.

Despite allegations by the opposition of wide-spread malpractices, officials claimed no clash or voting machine-related problem was reported from poll-bound areas.

Members of the two opposition parties, however, alleged that people were attacked and stopped from casting their votes by "goons" owing allegiance to the ruling BJP.

TMC leader Subal Bhowmik, who staged a sit-in here with other party workers, accused the State Election Commission of favouring the ruling party.

He emphasised that the entire election should be countermanded as "booth jamming and other intimidatory tactics" were used to prevent voters from exercising their franchise.

"People's verdict will not be reflected when the results are announced. Unfair means were used to conduct the voting process. The police and election commission officials sided with the ruling party, so we demand that the entire election be countermanded," he told reporters.

Bhowmik, who is also the state convener of the TMC steering committee, further said, "residences of several TMC candidates were attacked last (Wednesday) night and attempts were made to set their houses on fire. At least five party members were attacked and many supporters were prevented from casting their votes. The police simply stood by as silent spectators."

Echoing him, leaders of the opposition CPI(M) also said that polls were rigged by ruling party's "goons."

Tripura Left Front convener Narayan Kar said security forces were not mobilised properly, despite directions to that end by the Supreme Court.

The Left Front sought fresh polls in Agartala Municipal Corporation and four municipal councils -- Dharmanagar, Khowai, Belonia and Melaghar.

"The state election commission and the police totally surrendered before the ruling party. The DGP is a black sheep, as under his leadership, elections were blatantly rigged with no regard for the directives of the Supreme Court," Kar said.

CPI(M) state secretary Jitendra Chowdhury alleged that the voting process was reduced to a "farce".

"I have never witnessed such mayhem during civic elections. Despite lodging several complaints with the SEC, no measure was taken to hold free and fair elections," Chowdhury told reporters.

Another leader of the CPI(M), Phulon Bhattacharjee, said voters were threatened of consequences if found entering polling booths.

"In my long political career, I have never seen such anarchy. Voters are being openly threatened..." she exclaimed.

The ruling BJP, however, denied all allegations.

"The TMC and the CPI (M) are making baseless allegations as they know well that they would be defeated. Elections were held in a festive spirit," BJP spokesperson Nabendu Bhattacharya said.

BJP which was worsted at the hustings by the TMC in West Bengal earlier this year is under a "kind of siege" according to analysts who point out that the TMC is trying to gain a foothold in states like Goa, Tripura and Meghalaya where the BJP or BJP supported governments are in power.

For TMC a strong footprint in Agartala and elsewhere in the northeastern state is essential as it hopes to topple BJP in Tripura's state election in 2023 and also emerge as a strong opposition to the BJP on a national scale. TMC which has also forayed into Goa and Meghalaya was strengthened Thursday with 12 Congress MLAs joining it in Shillong.

Polling was held in 222 seats across six nagar panchayats, seven municipal councils and Agartala Municipal Corporation in Tripura. Votes will be counted on November 28.

The Supreme Court had on Thursday directed the Union Ministry of Home Affairs to provide two additional companies of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) to secure the polling booths during the Tripura civic polls.

The run-up to the elections saw TMC youth leader Saayoni Ghosh, arrested on charges of criminal intimidation attempt to murder, and promotion of disharmony on Sunday after she raised the party's 'khela hobe' (game will be played) slogan outside a meeting being addressed by the state Chief Minister Biplab Deb.

A delegation of TMC MPs had also met Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Monday alleging police violence in Tripura after a sit-in in front of the home ministry. PTI JOY RMS JRC JRC

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