With the BJP winning more than 86 per cent in gram panchayat elections uncontested in Tripura, Opposition CPI(M) on Friday claimed that a large number of its candidates, and that of other opposition parties, were prevented from filing nomination papers by the BJP’s “armed gangs”.
The party alleged that 121 CPI(M) candidates were forced to withdraw their nominations due to threat from BJP workers.
Tripura BJP rejected the charge and claimed its workers have been at the receiving end.
State Election Commissioner G Kameswara Rao said no party has lodged any official complaint with him over violence, and that CPI(M) leaders met once “but they did not have many complaints”.
Tripura is scheduled to hold the three-tier panchayat polls on July 27; July 11 was the last date of withdrawing nominations.
CPI(M) and Congress candidates figure in barely 4 per cent and 10 per cent, respectively, out of of total 6,111 gram panchayat seats. The BJP fielded candidates in all 6,111 gram panchayat seats. So far, 5,278 seats have gone to BJP uncontested.
What SC said when BJP, CPM cried foul in Bengal
Accused of allegedly unleashing a terror campaign in Tripura, BJP had leveled the same charge against TMC during West Bengal panchayat elections in May 2018. The TMC had won 34.2 per cent of the panchayat seats uncontested. The Supreme Court, which expressed “shock” over seats won uncontested, rejected petitions by BJP and CPI(M) challenging Bengal panchayat polls, and seeking cancellation of polls in over 20,000 uncontested seats. While underlining that the charges of obstruction of polls is a serious matter, the court said the challenge must be pursued through poll petitions instead. The court exercised its extraordinary power under Article 142 of the Constitution and held that the limitation period of 30 days for filing petitions, which had expired by then, was to start from the date of notification of panchayat results.
“There are 306 candidates of the Left Front in the fray out of 6,111 seats; for the panchayat samiti, there are 56 candidates out of 419 seats; and in zilla parishad, there are 67 Left Front candidates for 116 seats,” the CPI(M) Politburo said in a statement.
During the nomination period from July 1 to 8, CPI(M) said its candidates were “prevented from collecting and filing nomination papers by armed gangs” of BJP. The party stated, “Bike-borne hoodlums of BJP were stationed before election offices so that no opposition candidate could collect or submit nomination papers. In most of the places, the police were just onlookers…”
BJP’s Tripura spokesperson Ashok Sinha said there has been no political murder in the state since the BJP came to power. He dismissed CPI(M)’s allegations and said the party wants to remain relevant with such statements.“Tripura and Bengal have this culture where (political) contest is seen only during Assembly polls. Many seats are witnessing a contest. Only figures of uncontested seats are being shared with the media,” Sinha said.
State Election Commissioner G Kameshwara Rao told The Indian Express that the CPI(M) had 369 valid nominations for gram panchayat seats, of which 64 were withdrawn. The Congress had 708 valid nominations, of which 97 were withdrawn.
At the panchayat samiti (block) level, 338 out of total 419 seats have gone uncontested, while 37 of 116 zila parishad seats saw no contest, Rao said.
In Dhalai district, only three of 393 gram panchayat seats are set to see a contest, the rest having gone uncontested. All panchayat samiti and zila parishad seats have gone uncontested in the district.
Rao said that historically the Opposition’s participation in the electoral fray, including panchayat polls, was never this low in Tripura, a state known for its high voting percentages. Stating that there were fewer nominations this time, Rao said, “Except four to six blocks, the rest saw token nominations. I cannot comment on factors behind the numbers…”