As counting for the bypolls for the four Assembly seats in Tripura inched towards the end Sunday, the BJP won three out of four seats with Chief Minister Dr Manik Saha emerging victorious in his first-ever direct electoral battle from the Town Bardowali constituency.
The BJP also won the Jubarajnagar and Surma seats in the Tripura bypolls. Meanwhile, the Congress party made a comeback of sorts by winning one seat and the CPI(M) and the TMC ended with zero seats.
Observer Parathi Sarathi Mishra said counting is going smoothly according to the guidelines of the Election Commission of India. “All political party agents are present everywhere, all rounds are smooth. We hope to finish the entire process by 2 pm,” he said.
Voting was held Thursday in the Agartala and Town Bardowali assembly constituencies, which are in the West Tripura district, the Surma seat in the Dhalai district, and the Jubarajnagar constituency in North Tripura.
Bypolls at the Agartala and Town Bardowali seats were necessitated after two sitting MLAs—Sudip Roy Barman and Ashish Kumar Saha—resigned before shifting to the Congress from the BJP earlier this year. In the Surma constituency, the sitting BJP legislator Ashish Das was disqualified from the Tripura Assembly for changing his party all by himself, while in Jubarajnagar former Assembly speaker and CPI(M) legislator R C Debnath died.
Claims and counterclaims
Manik Saha, who replaced his predecessor Biplab Kumar Deb last month, said his victory was expected but claimed the BJP’s winning margin was below their expectations. He alleged that the opposition CPI(M) made a secret nexus with Congress and transferred its votes to them.
“The winning margin was less than expected because there was some understanding between the Congress and CPI(M). It’s clear the latter transferred their votes to the CPI(M). Votes were given for development. I’ll work hard. A tree is known for its fruits. I’ll try my best,” said Saha.
Manik Saha also said the alleged nexus between opposition parties was at play in all the seats which went to bypolls.
However, the Congress party alleged Manik Saha’s victory was not the true mandate of the people and came through false voting and poll violence. “The BJP is making these allegations since they lost. This is a gossip they would like to spew now to cover their failure. Our main target is to defeat communal forces. So like-minded parties in coming days might come together to ensure the defeat of communal forces,” said Congress heavyweight candidate and former minister Sudip Roy Barman who defeated BJP candidate Dr Ashok Sinha.
Roy Barman, who won from his home turf of the Agartala constituency with a margin of 3,163 votes against his nearest contender Sinha said he won braving violence, false voting, and assaults on himself.
Speaking to reporters after the Returning Officer announced his victory, Roy Barman said his victory was the first major victory against the ruling BJP since it came to power in 2018 and said it reflects the sentiment of the people across Tripura.
“Usually by-poll results go in favour of the ruling party. But voters of the Agartala seat voted for Congress, against the ruling dispensation. We believe this is the sentiment of people across the state,” said the victorious candidate, adding that the people are frustrated with the BJP-led government in Tripura and the victory of Congress would be reflected across the state in general elections scheduled early next year.
On his party’s defeat at Town Bardowali constituency, Roy Barman said voters faced intimidation and barriers were put up by hoodlums on the poll day, resulting in less percentage of votes compared to 90 per cent plus votes cast in previous years.
“The result is an outcome of false voting. The BJP has lost all morality. They tried to influence sector officials. The CM’s victory was made through false voting. He is a power-monger greedy fellow,” he said.
Congress candidate Ashish Kumar Saha, who lost to Chief Minister Manik Saha, spoke in a similar tone and said the CM’s victory was made possible after the BJP pushed thousands of outsiders to his constituency on polling day and deprived genuine voters. Though he lost, Saha said he believes people are “waking up” and the sentiment would be reflected in the 2023 general assembly elections.
Speaking to reporters, Sinha said he accepts the people’s mandate for Roy Barman and that he lost because he was “not a good enough” candidate. “I have got what I expected to get. The Congress got more votes than we expected them to get. It’s alright. The people believed in him and I accept the people’s mandate. I was not a good enough candidate. There’s no wave against BJP anywhere,” he said.
Meanwhile, BJP candidate Malina Debnath was leading at the Jubarajnagar seat at the end of the eighth round of counting with a margin of 4,320 votes ahead of her nearest contestant and CPI(M) candidate who secured 14,061 votes.
The Congress party secured 1,418 votes at the end of the eighth round at the Jubarajnagar seat while Trinamool Congress scored 1,073 votes. However, postal ballot figures were not announced for the Jubarajnagar constituency.
While counting figures for the Surma assembly constituency came in late due to technical issues, the third round figures there revealed BJP candidate Swapna Das Paul, a rookie candidate, was leading with a margin of 3,278 votes ahead of her nearest contender and CPI(M) leader Anjan Das who secured 3,509 votes. Das is also a former MLA.
Meanwhile, Tripura ADC’s ruling TIPRA Motha party, which fielded Baburam Satnami as its first-ever candidate for assembly by-polls, secured 3,116 votes at the end of the third round of counting and came third so far. The Trinamool Congress secured 469 votes in Surma at the end of the third round.
The Trinamool Congress party is in the fourth position as per the fourth round of counting stats in all seats where counting outcomes were announced. The party is set to lose security deposit in all seats it contested.
Asked for her reaction, TMC candidate at the Agartala constituency Panna Deb waved off reporters and said, “No comments”.
The party’s Town Bardowali candidate Sushmita Banerjee said she has accepted the people’s mandate.