Nine months after bye-elections were held in three-tier panchayats of the state, Tripura Wednesday announced general elections to the rural local self-government bodies scheduled for July 27. The last rural body elections were held in 2014 when CPI (M)-led Left Front, which was in power then, swept the elections.
State Election Commissioner GK Rao Wednesday said 1,20,3070 votes, including 6,16,893 male, 5,86,176 female and one elector from the third gender, would be able to exercise their adult franchise rights on July 27.
Polling will be held across 2,623 polling stations of the state. The panchayat polls would not use Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) and would go with Godrej or bungo type traditional ballot boxes for the conduct of polls.
As per the announced schedule, nomination papers can be submitted to Block Development Officers (BDOs) in case of Gram Panchayat and Panchayat Samities and to District Magistrates for Zilla Parishad bodies respectively from July 1 till July 8. The submitted papers would be scrutinised on July 9 and candidates can withdraw their nomination papers till July 11. Counting of votes would be held on July 31.
SEC Rao said the model code of conduct is in force in all panchayat areas from today itself.
While the commission has assured sufficient security deployment, Rao today said that law and order is a state subject and not his ‘business’. He also said he would be content with the security of the ballot box and electoral process. “Law and order is a state subject and not our business. We only deal with security arrangement. We have requested state government in writing to deploy (security) during elections,” the Election Commissioner said.
His statement has created uneasiness among the opposition parties who already voiced their apprehensions about political violence during the poll process.
According to the commission, 6,111 seats of 591 gram panchayats, 419 seats from 35 panchayat samiti and 116 seats from 8 zilla parishad bodies respectively will undergo polling on July 27. Polling would be held from 7 am till 4 pm on the day.
Left Front, which was in power for 25 consecutive years till 2018, swept the last rural body polls in 2014 by winning 563 out of 591 gram panchayats and all 35 panchayat samitis and eight zilla parishad bodies.
However, the Left fortress was breached ever since the BJP-led coalition government came to power in March 2018. The saffron party won in 96 per cent seats of the rural self-government bodies without contest in bye-elections held last year, when 3,207 different gram panchayat bodies, 161 seats of panchayat Samiti and 18 zilla parishad seats underwent polling.
Tripura Police Inspector General (Law and Order) Puneet Rastogi said 12,000 police personnel would be deployed during panchayat election process in the state to maintain law and order. In addition, 18 companies of Border Security Force (BSF) jawans and some CRPF personnel are also expected to be deployed in security arrangement for polls.
Ruling BJP expressed confidence for victory in the panchayat elections and said opposition parties might only win 1-2 seats here and there in the state. “We are confident of victory. Opposition might win 1-2 seats here and there. We have already completed our groundwork,” BJP spokesperson Dr. Ashok Sinha told indianexpress.com.
State Congress vice president Tapas Dey said his party is working on the ground in rural areas to garner support in their favour. However, he said his party is apprehending political violence at the behest of BJP and sought the Election Commission’s help to ensure free and fair polls.
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