Polling for civic bye-elections in 14 municipal bodies of Tripura ended Thursday. The polling started at 7 AM. According to latest reports from State Election Commission officials, around 80 percent voters turned out.
However, opposition CPI(M) and Congress parties have alleged widespread violence from BJP supporters and claimed state election commission, police and a section of administrative officials to be involved in attacks against opposition candidates and polling agents.
Speaking to indianexpress.com, State EC Secretary Prasenjit Bhattacharjee claimed the election commission had no report of violence or any other untoward incident from anywhere in 67 seats of 14 municipal bodies.
“Returning Officers reported 16.29 percent voter turnout till 9 AM and 36.04 till 11 AM. The final turnout is yet to be compiled. But based on tentative figures, the turnout is likely to be 80 percent”, Bhattacharjee said.
The bye-election in 158 seats in 14 municipal bodies of the state including Agartala Municipal Corporation was announced on November 23. However, opposition political parties could not field candidates in many seats and only 67 seats underwent polling today.
CPI(M) West Tripura District Secretary Pabitra Kar led a protest demonstration near Sadar Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) and said that “BJP backed hooligans” forced Left candidates and polling agents out of polling stations in four seats of the Agartala Municipal Corporation which underwent elections.
“In some places, the candidate was not allowed to cast vote. Left supporting voters were barred from exercising their adult franchise rights. Polling agents were forced to leave polling stations at ward no. 3, 4, 35 and 47 where polls are being held. We are formally withdrawing our candidates from the seats in Agartala municipal body to avert any further attack”, Kar, who is also former Deputy Speaker of Tripura Assembly, told reporters.
An official from the state police headquarters said there was no report of any untoward incident from anywhere in the state during poll hours.
Later, Tripura Congress spokesperson Harekrishna Bhowmik said in a press conference that BJP supporters jammed polling booths and made ‘chappa votes’ or false votes, impersonating those who were denied entry into booths.
CPI(M) state secretary Goutam Das made similar allegations in another press conference where he police, administration and other officials were involved in “nexus to kill democracy” by disrupting the poll process today.
While CPI (M) “withdrew” their candidates in 35 seats in Agartala Municipal Corporation, Bishalgarh Municipal Council, Belonia Municipal Council and few other civic bodies to “avert further attack”, Congress has demanded re-poll in all seats where violence was alleged.
BJP spokesperson Dr. Ashok Sinha denied the CPI (M) allegations and said they raised “baseless and wild allegations” to hide their failure in the poll process. “They do not have any public connect. They won in elections during Last 25 years by force. Since there is democracy in Tripura now, they have failed to muscle their way out through the polls and are now playing victims. This is a face-saving measure”, Sinha said.
As per schedule, votes cast in all civic bodies would be counted tomorrow starting 8 AM.