BJP might have lost in three states but it certainly seems to be making up the victory count in bypolls and smaller elections. It won bigtime in Assam panchayat elections earlier this month and has won in village panchayat and urban body bye-elections in Tripura in a clean sweep.
In its third major blow to CPI (M) in Tripura, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has swept urban bye-elections in 14 municipal bodies of the state two days back. The saffron victory trail started here with general assembly election on February 18 and continued with bye-elections of three tier panchayat bodies in October.
The party emerged victorious in 99.37 percent seats of urban bodies which underwent bye-polls here except a single seat in Panisagar municipal body of North Tripura district where CPI (M) won. Congress came second with 12.94 per cent votes and CPI (M) secured the third position with 12.54 per cent votes.
Tripura’s February assembly polls were taken by a huge anti-incumbency factor against CPI (M) coupled with brilliant campaign models including train sampark abhiyan, booth sampark, vistaraks and thousands of ‘panna pramukhs’ who would maintain steady connection down to the last voter, subsequent polls were mostly about the incumbent.
For BJP, this victory has come as a huge chest thumping, that too in the former left citadel. Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself took to Twitter about Tripura municipal bye-election results. “I thank the people of Tripura for their massive support to BJP in the civic polls. Gladdening to see the hard-work and efforts of karyakartas of @BJP4Tripura. This will give a further boost to the development of Tripura”, the PM tweeted.
Opposition CPI (M), which ruled the state since 1993, has accused BJP of unleashing massive violence on communist supporters before and during the bye-poll process.
Tripura has 20 urban bodies including six Nagar Panchayat, a municipal corporation and thirteen municipal councils. Among these, 158 seats in 14 municipal bodies were rendered vacant due to resignation of elected public representatives, mostly from CPI (M) and Congress parties.
CPI (M) state secretary Goutam Das told indianexpress.com that the elected representatives who resigned were forced to do so in the face of severe threat and attacks from BJP. He also said his party was forced to give free walk-over to BJP in 91 seats since nobody could file nomination papers in the face of violence. Out of 67 municipal seats that finally went to polls, the communist party again withdrew candidates in 35 seats.
Tripura Congress vice president Tapas Dey claimed the bypolls were not free and fair and were held amid a “reign of terror”. “Our supporters were barred from campaigning, polling agents were thrown out of polling stations. We complained before the state election commission and Tripura Police. No action followed. This bye-election results don’t reflect the public mandate,” he claimed.
Tripura Pradesh Trinamul Congress president Ashish Lal Singh said the BJP-IPFT government misused administration and police to mar the bye-election process and muscle its way to victory. “Elections are festivals of democracy. This one was a festival of destroying democracy,” Singh said.
All three opposition parties have claimed their leaders were attacked by BJP supporters during the poll process but police remained inactive.
Former Finance Minister and veteran CPI (M) leader Bhanulal Saha was allegedly slapped by a BJP supporter at Bishalgarh in Sipahijala district, 30 Km from Agartala, on the night preceding bye-polls. CPI (M) state secretary Goutam Das narrowly escaped a fist from landing on his jaw on the poll day. The party has also alleged at least 25 different incidents in which over 70 party workers including former minister Manik Dey, Tripura Tribal areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC) chairperson Radhacharan Debbarma and others were assaulted since the bye-elections were announced.
State Congress vice president Tapas Dey said Pradesh Congress leader Pancham Mishra and Block president Ashish Dey were injured during political clashes in West Tripura on the date of bye-election.
BJP has, however, claimed otherwise.
Tripura BJP general secretary Pratima Bhowmik said CPI (M) and Congress tried to join forces and take on BJP but ended up with no supporters to vote for them. “CPI (M) campaigned, staged candidates, started contesting in the bypolls. When they saw they would come last, they started the drama of withdrawing candidates. Where on earth can you withdraw candidates after the polls have started? This is a gimmick,” she said. She also claimed none of former finance minister Bhanulal Saha or CPI (M) state secretary Goutam Das was assaulted by BJP supporters.
“They are making up these stories. These are outright lies and baseless allegations,” Bhowmik said. “Municipal bye-elections were held in a free and fair manner. There was no violence. People have rejected the Left and Congress and voted for BJP,” she claimed.