The political turmoil in Tripura shows no sign of abating with opposition parties demanding fresh polls in Tripura West Lok Sabha constituency, claiming that the April 11 election in the state was “heavily rigged” by the ruling BJP. Denying the charge, the saffron party said the allegations were “baseless and politically motivated”.
Around 77.6 per cent voter turnout was recorded in the first phase of election in West Tripura.
Seeking a “thorough scrutiny” of CCTV footages collected from 1,679 polling booths of the parliamentary seat, both the Congress and the CPI(M) said on Sunday they would want their party representatives to be present at the election office during the process.
Gautam Das, the state secretary of the CPI(M), told reporters that his party has submitted a memorandum to the returning officer of Tripura West, Sandeep Mahatme, on Saturday, demanding a re-poll in the seat.
He claimed that elections were rigged in 846 out of the 1,679 booths in the constituency.
“There was rampant proxy voting by the supporters and activists of the BJP. In most cases, they blocked out or disabled the CCTVS. Many voters were intimidated a day before the polls and some were forcefully driven out of the polling stations by the goons,” Das told reporters Sunday.
The party would welcome fresh elections in the constituency, he said.
“We could identify 846 booths, where polls were rigged, but the number could go higher. The Election Commission has the machinery to find out what exactly happened in the first phase of polls.
“The party will welcome fresh elections in West Tripura. If that isn’t the case, the EC should at least make arrangements for re-polling in those 846 booths,” Das said.
The Congress, too, brought similar allegations against the BJP, contending that the state election office, in connivance with the saffron party leaders, might be trying to suppress the matter.
Congress secretary Rahul Saha said that a delegation of his party has met Deputy Chief Election Commissioner Sudip Jain in Delhi to lodge a complaint against the BJP.
“None of our party representatives was invited during the initial scrutiny of the video footages by the chief electoral officer of Tripura, Sriram Taranikanti.
“We are of the opinion that the state election office submitted the report to the poll panel with the intention of suppressing the facts related to mass-rigging. We demand a fresh poll in the West Tripura constituency,” Saha asserted.
Earlier this week, Tripura Congress president Pradyot Kishore Deb Burman said he would knock the door of the Supreme Court if the Election Commission refuses its party access to the CCTV footages.
Rebutting the allegations, BJP spokesperson Nabendu Bhattacharya said the saffron party was not involved in any unfair practices.
“The opposition parties are making baseless allegations against the BJP. The charges are bereft of truth and politically motivated,” he added.
Chief Electoral Officer S Taranikanti, who had earlier admitted ‘irregularities’ in the poll process after initial scrutiny of the CCTV recordings, said he has received 800 complaints in the matter so far.
The other Lok Sabha seat in the state, East Tripura, was scheduled to go to polls on April 18, but the Election commission (EC) postponed the date to April 23, asserting that the prevailing law-and-order situation is not conducive for holding free and fair polls.
The EC also shunted out Additional Director General of Police, Rajiv Singh, for his alleged failure to thwart incidents pertaining to law and order in the lead up to the parliamentary polls.