80% vote in Tripura local polls; AITC, CPM allege rigging and intimidation

The first phase of local body elections in Tripura were marred by allegations that ruling BJP workers attacked opposition All India Trinamool Congress and CPM workers and intimidated voters. Over 80% voted, by initial estimates, in elections to 51 seats to the Agartala Municipal Corporation and 171 seats in seven municipal councils and six nagar panchayats on Thursday. Votes will be counted on Sunday.

AITC state convenor Subal Bhowmik staged a sit-in with party workers in Agartala, accusing the state election commission of ‘favouring BJP’. He alleged there was booth jamming and intimidatory tactics to prevent people from voting.

“People’s verdict will not be reflected when results are announced. Unfair means were used to conduct voting. Police and election commission officials sided with the ruling party. Residences of several AITC candidates were attacked last night and attempts were made to set their houses on fire. At least five party members were attacked, and many supporters were prevented from voting. The police simply stood by as silent spectators,” Bhowmik alleged.

Leaders of CPM said that polls were rigged by ‘BJP-sheltered goons’. CPM state secretary Jitendra Chowdhury alleged that the voting process was reduced to a farce. “I have never witnessed such mayhem during civic elections. Despite lodging several complaints with the SEC, no measure was taken to hold free and fair elections,” Chowdhury told reporters. Another CPM leader, Phulon Bhattacharjee, said voters were threatened of consequences if found inside polling booths. “In my long political career, I have never seen such anarchy. Voters were openly threatened,” she said.

BJP denied the allegations. Deputy chief minister Jishnu Dev Varma said that incidents take place in elections. “What is unprecedented is that people from outside coming and trying to storm without having any organisational base in Tripura.” “AITC and CPM are making baseless allegations as they know well that they would be defeated. Elections were held in a festive spirit,” BJP spokesperson Nabendu Bhattacharya said.

A senior official in the state election commission told ET, “there is no major incident of violence. We have received complaints from candidates and political parties and these are being looked into.”

BJP has already won 112 of total 334 seats to AMC uncontested and 19 other local bodies in the state.

(With inputs from PTI)

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