With bypolls in four seats in Tripura–Surma, Jubarajnagar, Town Bardowali and Agartala–drawing closer and barely nine months remaining before the Assembly elections early next year, the Opposition Left Front as well as the Congress and the Trinamool Congress have said that no one should attempt to divide anti-BJP votes in the state ruled by the saffron party.
Speaking to reporters, Left Front convener Narayan Kar appealed to citizens on Sunday to vote without fear or favour in the June 23 bypolls and urged everyone to make sure that “anti-BJP votes” do not get divided. In an apparent message to other Opposition parties, the senior CPM leader also said only the Left could challenge the BJP in the state.
Poll pundits said Kar’s comments were crucial given an informal understanding between the Left Front and the Congress. It is said that the Left alliance has put up “weak” candidates in two of the four seats to help the Congress. The Congress has not fielded any candidate in one seat and put up a rookie nominee in a seat where the Left Front has a significant support base.
Kar’s comments came shortly after he met Chief Electoral Officer Kiran Dinkarrao Gitte and submitted a memorandum requesting the poll panel’s intervention in ensuring a smooth election campaign.
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“Poll campaigning is about to end. We were unable to campaign properly owing to natural calamities. BJP-backed miscreants also attacked us multiple times. We sought help from the CEO to campaign peacefully in the few hours that are left before campaigning ends. We told him that we had bitter experiences during the polls in the recent past. The CEO assured us that those incidents would not be repeated,” Kar told reporters.
The Left Front leader’s comments came soon after TMC leaders urged people not to “waste” their votes on the CPM and the Congress. “Don’t vote for the CPM and the Congress. It will be a waste. They are not active at the national level. The TMC is occupying the anti-BJP space and people of Bengal made it clear by giving the mandate to Mamata Banerjee thrice in a row,” TMC leader Kunal Ghosh told reporters in Agartala on Sunday.
On Tuesday, TMC general secretary Abhishek Banerjee, who is touring the state, said anti-BJP votes should not get divided.
Addressing a press conference, Banerjee said people had decided to support the TMC, owing to which the party secured over 20 per cent votes in civic body polls last year.
He said the CPM was a “tried and tested force” in the state and that the Congress was incapable of resisting the BJP. He therefore appealed to the people to vote for the TMC en bloc to “revive democracy,” which he said was being trampled under the BJP rule.
Banerjee, who is the nephew of TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee, expressed confidence that the BJP would not win in a single booth in the bypolls if free and fair elections were held.
However, the TMC leader was unhappy with the Election Commission’s “inaction” on the alleged attacks on his party workers. “We are not happy with the Election Commission’s role. Besides, what is the state administration doing if the culprit is not even summoned to a police station?” he said.
The TMC leader also alleged that when it came to political violence, the saffron party’s tactics had outdone those employed by the CPM in the past. “Attacks on media, party offices, police stations, lawyers, professionals..the police are scared in Tripura, they are hiding in police stations when goons are attacking them. False cases are slapped on our workers. Our candidates were not allowed to vote in the civic polls last year. A Congress candidate was assaulted today. The only alternative is Trinamool. Period,” Banerjee said.
Claiming that the state was at the cusp of a huge “parivartan”, Banerjee said that since the TMC renewed its activities last August, the party had been active at the grassroots while other Opposition parties were active only on Facebook and Twitter.
“These Facebook, Twitter protests cannot build a mass movement. We are on the streets. We are not keyboard commandos. Besides, this (bypolls) is not a fight between political parties. It is the fight of common people against BJP misrule,” he said.
The bypolls—necessitated by the resignation of MLAs in two seats, disqualification of one legislator and the death of another—is crucial given that Chief Minister Manik Saha is a candidate, in his first-ever direct election.
Saha, BJP candidate Ashok Sinha and others joined Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma at a roadshow in Agartala and Town Bardowali on Sunday.
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