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In a significant development, Tripura’s ruling ally Indigenous Peoples Front of Tripura (IPFT) Wednesday demanded the State Election Commission to reschedule bye-election in three-tier panchayat bodies and claimed they were under attack from BJP since it didn’t want the indigenous party to grow stronger.
The demand comes in the wake of a series of clashes between BJP and IPFT, both allies in the state government, over submission of nominations for panchayat bypolls. Over 3000 seats in gram panchayats, panchayat samiti and zilla parishads, which were rendered vacant due to the resignation of elected public representatives since March this year, would undergo bye-elections on September 30.
IPFT, which is contesting against ally BJP in the bypolls, could submit nominations in only 10 out of 35 rural development blocks of Tripura, IPFT general secretary Mangal Debbarma told reporters. He also claimed BJP supporters have attacked IPFT activists in different districts.
At least 19 persons were injured in clashes between political parties in different districts on Tuesday.
“Election exercise could not be carried out in some of the RD blocks and aspirant candidates belonging to different political parties could not file their nomination even on the last date. The State Election Commission is requested to take immediate decision to exclude such blocks from the purview of the present election exercise”, an executive committee resolution of IPFT said.
The party also urged the State Election Commission to reschedule by-polls in those blocks at the earliest.
IPFT spokesperson Mangal Debbarma said his party and all its frontal organizations would soon launch a statewide movement for ‘Tipraland’ – a proposed separate state for indigenous communities. He urged BJP to hold an immediate state-level joint meeting with IPFT and said findings of the meeting would decide the nature of the movement.
Speaking on the incidents of chaos, IPFT supremo and revenue minister Narendra Chandra Debbarma questioned the prevailing rule of law in the state. “Severe chaos” was created in different blocks on Tuesday – the last day of nomination submission for three-tier panchayat polls, he said.
A duty officer from the state police control room said that clashes were reported from Boxanagar, Dhanpur and Melaghar in Sipahijala district, Amtali in West Tripura, Kamalpur in Dhalai, Dharmanagar in North Tripura, Gournagar in Khowai district and from other parts of the state yesterday.“The clash started at 11 AM between supporters of two political parties. An officer was injured during the clash. We had to burst tear gas cells and issued mild lathi charge to control the situation,” the duty officer from Amtali police station said.
BJP and IPFT also clashed at Boxanagar in Sipahijala district, 60 Km from here yesterday when the latter went to submit nomination papers for the bye-elections. Three persons including Sonamura Sub-Divisional Police Officer Rajdip Deb were injured.
Clashes were reported from Dhanpur and Melaghar in Sipahijala district, Kamalpur in Dhalai district, Dharmanagar in North Tripura and other areas.
Ruling ally IPFT called an emergency meeting this morning to conduct a detailed review of the state’s political situation. The party’s supremo NC Debbarma, however, refused to name the attackers and said miscreants led the attack against IPFT supporters in different districts.
Asked why BJP and IPFT are not in alliance for the panchayat bye-polls, NC Debbarma said, “We are allies in government. Though there is no formal decision, we have discussed that we shall have a friendly contest in panchayats bye-election. It was a gentleman’s agreement”.
Reacting to the issue, BJP spokesperson Mrinal Kanti Deb said that his party supporters did not attack any person, group of any political party during filing of nominations, last date of which expired yesterday. He claimed that some miscreants had attacked BJP activists and supporters when they went to file nominations.
Sipahijala district Superintendent of Police Kulwant Singh said that situation is normal there but added that a heavy deployment of police and para-military forces was made and intensified patrolling in vulnerable areas.
Meanwhile, an FIR was filed by BJP MLA Birchanda Debbarma at Takarjala police station, 25 km from here, on September 10 night accusing “a group of unidentified miscreants” of breaking open his residential gate and damaging the property.
The MLA was not in the house during the attack but his family was terrified, he said in the FIR. An investigation is underway but nobody has been arrested so far.
Meanwhile, Opposition CPI(M) in Tripura demanded immediate postponement of the panchayat bye-elections or extension of the time period for filing nomination papers. The communist party could submit nominations in only four out of 35 blocks for bypolls.
Speaking to indianexpress.com, CPM spokesperson Goutam Das said a “fascist” rule is prevailing in Tripura under the BJP-IPFT coalition government. Opposition supporters, common people, even policemen are not spared from attacks of BJP and IPFT supporters, Das said.
“An unusual and abnormal situation is prevailing in the state. Elections can’t be held in such a situation”, he added.
Clashes between IPFT and BJP supporters were also reported from Durga Chowmuhani and other parts of Dhalai district on Tuesday, police officials said. Supporters of both parties gathered to submit nominations at a block office in Durga Chowmuhani when clashes erupted.
Dhalai district superintendent Sudipta Das said Kamalpur Sub Divisional Police Officer Shankar Das and other officials including a police station in-charge were injured when they tried to lift a blockade at Srirampur, 10 km away from the block office last evening.
Convoy of IPFT MLA Dhananjoy Tripura was attacked in the area yesterday and two of his vehicles were damaged, the official said. The blockade was subsequently staged by IPFT supporters, Das said.