IN the panchayat by-elections in Tripura, for which polling is to be held on September 30, the BJP has won 96 percent of the seats uncontested. This absurd outcome illustrates the brazen way the election process to the three-tier panchayat by-elections has been subverted. This is an election in which opposition candidates have simply not been allowed to file nominations.
Altogether, elections were being held to fill vacancies in 3,207 seats in the gram panchayat level; 161 seats at panchayat samiti level; and 18 zilla parishad seats. Number of vacancies at the gram panchayat level constitutes 52.5 percent of the total gram panchayat seats. Practically all the seats fell vacant because CPI(M) and Left Front members were forced to resign due to coercion and physical threats.
The BJP in Tripura seems to have taken a leaf out of the Trinamul Congress book in West Bengal where, in the panchayat polls in June this year, 34 percent of the seats went uncontested after concerted attacks on the Left Front and opposition candidates seeking to file nominations. The BJP has outdone the TMC in this respect in Tripura.
The forcible capturing of local bodies by such means makes a mockery of the election process and is glaring example of the subversion of democracy which is taking place in Tripura ever since the assembly elections in February 2018. Not a day passes in the state when there is no attack on CPI(M) and Left Front activists. Hundreds of offices of the Party and mass organisations have been destroyed or captured; six workers of the CPI(M) and the youth organisation have been killed; large sums of money have been extorted from CPI(M) supporters. Even collection of money for flood relief work in Kerala was subjected to attack in various places.
It is this reign of terror and its patronage by the state government which has enabled the BJP goons to act with impunity against anyone who sought to file nominations. CPI(M) and Left Front representatives were physically assaulted even inside the offices of the block development officers, who had called all-party meetings in connection with the by-elections.
Despite these attacks, the CPI(M) and Left Front are organising programmes to take up people’s issues. It is heartening that there was a spontaneous response to the strike call given by the Left Front against the rise in petrol and diesel prices on September 10.
The people of Tripura had given the BJP-IPFT alliance a mandate to govern in the February election, not to unleash terror and suppress democratic rights. The BJP should know that such a state of affairs cannot continue for long without their incurring the people’s wrath.
(September 19, 2018)