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Monday, December 06, 2021

Tripura civic body polls register 81.54% voter turnout amid reports of clashes

🔴 BJP said the elections were peaceful but CPI(M) and TMC said they were “reduced to a mockery” and said they would seek the election commission’s intervention and move the Supreme Court to countermand the polls.

Written by Debraj Deb | Agartala |
Updated: November 25, 2021 11:51:56 pm
Women voters wait in queue in front of a polling center in Sepahijala district. (Express Photo)

Amid scattered reports of violence and clashes between party workers of BJP and Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPIM) and Trinamool Congress (TMC), the civic body polls in the 14 urban bodies registered a total of 75.82 per cent voter turnout till the last reports came in Thursday.

While BJP said the elections were peaceful, CPI(M) and TMC said they were “reduced to a mockery” and said they would seek the election commission’s intervention and move the Supreme Court to countermand the polls since “voters’ rights were blatantly scuttled”.

A statement issued by Tripura Police Assistant Inspector General Subrata Chakraborty said, “Except for some stray incidents at Agartala and Melaghar, no major incident was reported from any part of the state. The electors have exercised their franchise freely.”

Electors wait in a queue in front of a polling center at Agartala. (Express Photo)

The statement also said there were some complaints of alleged attempts to damage EVMs, obstructions threatening the voters, candidates and polling agents which were resolved by the police through “timely intervention”.

A statement from the police read, “The police arrested 98 persons, including 41 outsiders, 32 supporters of AITMC and 25 CPM supporters from AMC areas, under preventive sections of law for an attempt of breach of peace. Subsequently, they all were released in the afternoon. The overall situation is peaceful. Adequate security arrangements are being made by Tripura Police to ensure peace prior to and during the counting process.”

Meanwhile, CPI(M) sought fresh elections in five civic bodies — Agartala Municipal Corporation and Dharmanagar, Khowai, Belonia, Melaghar Municipal Councils — and repolls in wards 4, 8 and 10 of Panisagar nagar panchayat, 2 and 5 of Sabroom nagar panchayat and ward number 5 of Sonamura nagar panchayat, TMC demanded a complete fresh election.

Security personnel patrol outside a polling center at Melaghar municipal council in Sepahijala district. CPIM later sought to countermand elections in the urban body alleging poll violence and irregularities. (Express Photo)

Tripura Left Front convenor Narayan Kar said, “The state election commission completely surrendered before the ruling party. The DGP is a black sheep. Under him, the police played a biased role. Apart from a small section of cops, the police mostly played a negative role.”

He also alleged that the Supreme Court directions of conducting the civic polls were blatantly disregarded in Tripura and additional security forces were not properly mobilised.

Speaking to, an official of the state election commission, who didn’t wish to be named, said “some complaints” were lodged to different returning officers (RO) and district magistrates.

“The complaints are being compiled and they will be analysed and investigated and we cannot tell much before that,” the official said.

In a press conference, Kar claimed voters were “robbed” of their own choice and the elections “were reduced to a complete mockery at the hands of BJP”.

Voters wait in queue in front of a polling center at Melaghar municipal council. (Express Photo)

Kar claimed polling booths were “captured” at Agartala, Belonia, Dharmanagar, Khowai and Melaghar municipal bodies and said, “Left party workers were attacked in 40 incidents, in which three candidates and polling agents were left critical.”

TMC’s Tripura convener Subal Bhowmik said, “Out of the 51 candidates in the Agartala Municipal Corporation, ten could not cast votes for themselves. This election was held amidst terror and fear psychosis, reducing the (election) commission, the police and other agencies to puppets.”

He said his party doesn’t accept the urban body polls and said TMC will seek the Supreme Court’s intervention to countermand the entire polling process.

“This election was a fight between evil forces and the common people. We want fresh elections. We want it to be a free and fair election,” Bhowmik said.

Reacting to the allegations, BJP said their activists were attacked in at least 100 places. In a press conference this evening, the saffron party’s spokesperson Nabendu Bhattacharya said TMC came to Tripura not to win polls but on behalf of CPIM to spread unrest.

He said, “The allegations levelled today were present during the Left regime. We don’t have any reports of undesired incidents like BJP activists being involved in any disturbance, forced voting or hooliganism.”

He defended his party workers against allegations of forcing Opposition candidates, polling agents out of poll centres and said, “Those who are complaining that their polling agents were not allowed to enter, majority of their agents didn’t even collect forms beforehand.”

However, the BJP leader said his party will “investigate” if any activist was involved in any illegal activity and said, “If anyone is involved, our party will take strict action.”

The polling was held across 222 seats in 14 urban bodies, including six nagar panchayats, seven municipal councils and Agartala Municipal Corporation — the only corporation of Tripura.

A security personnel wait in front of a polling center, which was almost vacant on Thursday noon. A large share of voters had cast their votes in the morning in the center while others came towards last leg of polling. (Express Photo)

The polling started at 7 am and continued till 4 pm and long queues of voters were seen in front of many polling centres, owing to which, the polling continued even after the stipulated hours in many places.

There were reports of Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) malfunction in eight locations. Officials of the election commission informed they were replaced shortly.

An official of the State Election Commission informed 18.46 per cent voter turnout was recorded till 9 am, 38.85 per cent till 11 am, 57.27 per cent till 1 am and 73.75 per cent till 3 pm.

With CPI(M) seeking the apex court’s intervention in an urgent petition last night alleging large-scale pre-poll violence and deterioration of law and order, the Supreme Court Thursday asked the Director General of Police to make sure every polling booth was secured by enough Central Armed Police Force(CAPF) personnel and asked the state to put in requisitions for additional force, if needed.

Meanwhile, in the wake of largescale booth capturing, massive violence and voter intimidation during the civic body polls, the Tripura Left Front Committee Thursday issued a press release stating that these are the outcomes of the “fascist rule of BJP in the state since Marh 2018, where the rule of law has been replaced by mafia raj.”

An official of Tripura Police said two companies of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and 500 jawans of the Tripura State Rifles (TSR) were deployed in addition to the regular deployment of 78 sections of security personnel. Two companies of Border Security Force (BSF) were deployed in addition to this after a Supreme Court order Wednesday.

However, the official said the Supreme Court order Thursday was received after 2 pm and additional security personnel were deployed “as per best initiative” and “in the spirit of the order”.

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