Congress Cannot Hide Its Tainted Face
ANTICIPATING imminent disgraceful defeat in both the parliamentary seats of the state, instead of waiting for the counting of votes, the Congress has preferred boycotting of counting on the ludicrous plea of so-called large scale irregularities in the elections. Though most of the opposition parties, namely Congress, BJP, Trinamul Congress and some independents were in the fray, their presence was hardly felt in the election campaign. BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, Congress star campaigner Rahul Gandhi and Trinamul Congress supremo Mamata Banarjee addressed one meeting each in the state. But the turn-out in their rallies was so thin, that they failed to create any impression in their poll prospect. On the other hand, the Left Front organised its poll campaign from the grass-root level and conducted innumerable meetings at various levels. The Left front’s campaign culminated in sub-division wise big rallies mostly addressed by CPI(M) Polit Bureau member, Manik Sarkar. In every such meeting, attendance of women folk was noteworthy. The elections to the West Tripura and East Tripura (ST) constituencies were held on April 7 and 12 respectively with a massive voter turn-out. As is in practice, people of the state exercised their right to franchise in a mood of festivity. While the turn-out in West Tripura was 86%, it was 84% in East Tripura constituency, which are highest in all the phases of elections so far held in the whole country and expectedly, this rate would not be crossed in any forthcoming phase of ongoing parliamentary elections. The elections were held under strict supervision of the central observers and all the polling booths were guarded by the central para-military forces. After the end of polls, all the political parties including Congress, BJP and Trinamul Congress greeted the people for coming out in massive numbers for casting their votes. Not a single untoward incident that could vitiate the peaceful festive atmosphere, occurred. The poor performance of the opposition parties during the campaign period was reflected on the poll day itself. In many booths, they could not appoint their polling agents. Nor they could open booth offices in a large number of polling stations. But one fine morning on the seventh day after polling of the West Tripura constituency, one local daily dished out a story of a technical irregularity in Booth No. 56 of 16-Bishalgarh assembly segment of West Tripura constituency. The news item showed that a person was helping two different physically impaired electors to cast their votes in two occasions. In fact, this was a violation of the electoral rule that does not allow any particular individual to help more than one elector in casting vote. Immediately after this irregularity came to notice, concerned DEO (district magistrate) conducted an inquiry and cross-examined the presiding officer, electoral staff of that booth and the voters and the helper concerned. He filed an FIR with the police and informed the incidents to the CEO who brought the episode to the notice of the ECI, New Delhi. However, the Election Commission did not pass any order till now on this incident. The opposition parties took this silly matter as a savior. With this pretext, all the anti-Left parties namely Congress, Trinamul Congress, BJP, Tripura Gramin Congress and AAP, in an orchestrated manner, started crying of large scale rigging of election by ruling parties. They had singly targetted the chief electoral officer of the state who, according to them, had connived with the ruling party to rig the election. They demanded re-poll in both the seats, removal of A Zindal from the office of the CEO and burnt his effigy in protest. Tripura Gramin Congress chief Subal Bhowmik staged a sit-in before the CEO’s office. They declared, unless re-poll is not announced, they would boycott the counting and called for ‘Tripura Bandh’ on May 16, the day of counting. People of the state vividly remember the black record of Congress’ malpractices in elections held during its jungle rule in 1988-93. It highjacked people’s mandate inside the counting hall in 1988, by defeating the Left Front candidate who had been declared won by the RO, by means of forced re-poll in Majlishpur constituency. In Simna assembly bye-election in the same year, Congress goons took control of the counting hall, beat out all opposition counting agents from the hall and double stamped on about 5000 ballots polled in favour of the CPI(M) candidate to mark those as cancelled and make their candidate win. Congress mobilised about 3000 anti-socials from all over the state and Cachar district of Assam to drive out Left voters in Fatikroy assembly bye-election in 1988 to make the election farce and ensure victory of their candidate. The Congress was the one to first introduce in the state the culture of booth capturing, stamping ballots in bundles, intimidation and impersonation, from the 1989 Lok Sabha elections. It is ironical that, this Congress which bears such notoriety in blatant electoral malpractices, is raising a question on the peaceful free and fair elections held in the state this time. Strongly condemning the provocative bandh call of opposition parties including the Congress which is still in power at the centre, CPI(M) state secretary, Bijan Dhar said, this is a face-saving attempt of the Congress and the other opposition parties who are suffering from utter demoralisation and fear of being routed in the election. The demand for rejection of votes cast by more than 20 lakh electorate out of about 24 lakh total voters is, in fact, a humiliation to the entire people of the state. The bandh call on the day of counting of votes is as good as the demands of the secessionist extremists, Bijan Dhar said. He appealed to the people to reject this provocative bandh call, maintain peace and amity on the counting day in the state. Bijan Dhar was briefing the press about the decisions adopted by the Party state committee which met on April 26. The Tripura Chapter of IAS Officers’ Association in a statement expressed concern on the allegation labeled on the chief electoral officer who successfully conducted the election in the state. Personally targeting an officer who had been assigned to perform constitutional duty for strengthening democracy, would air a wrong signal, the statement said. While briefing the decisions of the state committee, Bijan Dhar informed that the Party has asked its rank and file to start preparations for the three-tier Panchayat elections which is due in July next. Elections would be held for constitution of eight zilla parishads, 35 panchayat samities and 591 gram panchayats. About 7000 members would be elected in the three-tier election. This time there will be 50% reservation for women in a number of seats as well as in the office bearers post in every tier. The state committee has prepared a guideline for selection of candidates. Bijan Dhar also informed that by this time major changes have taken place in the administrative units of the state. Four new districts and five new sub-divisions have been created. It has been decided to re-organise the Party’s organisational set up in accordance with the administrative units. The Party had no district level committees so long. Now it has been decided to form district organising committees in between state committee and divisional committees. Initially, there would be one district organising committee in each of the eight districts. In addition, Bijan Dhar informed, five new divisional organising committees would be launched in Panisagar, Kumarghat, Mohanpur, Jampaijala and Karbook sub-divisions. These new organising committees would start function from September 1 next. The modalities for splitting the concerned parent DCs are being worked out.