Amid allegations of large-scale political violence, over 80 per cent of around 5 lakh voters exercised their franchise in the civic polls in Tripura on Thursday.
According to officials of the State Election Commission (SEC), while no major incidents occurred across the state, the opposition parties including the CPI-M and the Trinamool Congress alleged that violence, intimidation and booth capturing that happened on Thursday, was never witnessed in Tripura since it became a full-fledged state in 1972.
The CPI-M, due to the alleged large-scale malpractices and booth capturing, has demanded countermanding of elections in five civic bodies and in 10 seats in four other local bodies.
A statement from the police headquarters on Thursday said that except for some stray incidents in Agartala and Melaghar, no major incident has been reported from any part of the state.
A total of 4,93,041 voters, including 2,49,778 women, were eligible to cast votes in the Agartala Municipal Corporations (AMC) and other civic bodies — Municipal Councils and Nagar Panchayats.
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), however, has already secured a majority in the seven civic bodies in five districts.
On Thursday, elections were held in the 51-seat AMC and 171 seats in seven Municipal Councils and six Nagar Panchayats.
Amid allegations of pre-poll violence by the Opposition parties, the ruling BJP won 112 (34 per cent) of the 334 seats un-contested in the AMC and 19 urban local bodies in Jirania, Ranir Bazar, Mohanpur, Bishalgarh in western Tripura, Santir Bazar and Udaipur in southern Tripura and Kamalpur in northern Tripura.
A total of 785 candidates of various parties, including the BJP, the CPI-M-led Left, the Trinamool, and the Congress, are vying for 222 seats in the AMC and other civic bodies.
Counting of votes will take place on November 28.The leaders, candidates and election agents of the CPI-M and the Trinamool Congress separately organised massive demonstrations here to protest against alleged malpractices by the BJP.
However, the BJP dismissed all the accusations.
Over 50 Trinamool workers and leaders, including state party chief Subal Bhowmik, were arrested in Agartala.
CPI-M state Secretary Jitendra Chaudhury and Left Front Convener Narayan Kar after the elections demanded countermanding of the elections to the five civic bodies and re-polling in 10 seats of other civic bodies.
“Despite directions from the Supreme Court and the High Court, the State Election Commission and the police did not take any steps to conduct the elections free and fair.
“The Director General of Tripura police, despite informing the top court that there are adequate forces in Tripura, did not deploy the central forces properly to help the ruling party to do the malpractices,” Chaudhury told the media.
The CPI-M leaders said that they would accordingly apprise the apex court about the violation of its order by the state machinery.
The Supreme Court, following a petition from the CPI-M and Trinamool Congress’ Rajya Sabha Member Sushmita Dev had earlier asked the Tripura Police to ensure that none of the political parties were prevented from exercising their rights to campaign, for the Thursday’s municipal elections, in a peaceful manner.
Similar directions, following petitions from the CPI-M, were also given by the Tripura High Court.
The Supreme Court on Thursday directed the Centre to deploy two additional companies of central paramilitary forces in Tripura as expeditiously as possible for municipal elections being held in the day
It emphasised that it should be ensured that every polling booth is manned by paramilitary forces to ensure free and fair elections.
A bench comprising Justices D.Y. Chandrachud, Surya Kant, and Vikram Nath said: “We direct that the Union Ministry of Home Affairs to provide additional two companies of any CAPF as expeditiously as possible having due regard to the fact that polling has already commenced and in order to secure the polling booths so that polling can take place without any disturbance or dislocation.”
The bench added that the Tripura DGP and Secretary in the Department of Home Affairs, should immediately review if there is any additional requirement of further deployment, over and above the above direction and if so, communicate it to the Department of Home Affairs for necessary action.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta assured the court that should a requisition be made for additional paramilitary forces, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs would respond immediately in a favourable manner.
The bench was informed that as a result of the redeployment of two companies of the BSF last night, 128 personnel of the BSF are also stationed in addition to the force which is made available.
“We direct the State Election Commission, the Director General of Police and the Secretary, Home Affairs of the State of Tripura to ensure that every polling booth is manned by a sufficient strength of CAPF personnel, bearing in mind the sensitivity of the polling station and the need for a requisite number of personnel to guard the polling booths to ensure free and fair elections. The polling officer at each polling booth shall take the help of CAPF personnel, in the event that any exigency arisesa, said the bench, in its order.
The top court was informed that there are 770 polling booths where the polling is taking place. The bench further added that in the absence of the installation of CCTV cameras, both the electronic and the print media should have unhindered access for full reporting and coverage of the election process.
Senior advocate Mahesh Jethmalani and Shuvodeep Roy, appearing on behalf of Tripura government, stated that in addition to the deployment of 78 sections which was noted in the previous court order, 15 additional sections have been deployed and, pursuant to a requisition made by the state DGP and the Home Secretary, two companies of the Border Security Force (BSF) have been deployed by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs.
Senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan, appearing for Trinamool Congress, mentioned that as the polling is in progress, several incidents of violence have been recorded and sought hearing post lunch to show the court those videos.
The bench sought a report of compliance from the DGP and the Home Secretary jointly and listed the matter for further hearing on December 2.
The top court was hearing a contempt plea by the Trinamool Congress and others claiming that the law and order situation is worsening in the state, as the date for local body elections draws closer and the government authorities have not followed the top court’s direction on security arrangements. (IANS)