Vol. XLIII No. 20 May 19, 2019
Array

Hold Fresh Poll in Tripura West

A DELEGATION of CPI(M) led by its general secretary- Sitaram Yechury and consisting of Polit Bureau member- Nilotpal Basu, Left Front candidates for Tripura West and Tripura  East parliamentary constituencies-Sankar Prasad Datta and Jitendra Chowdhury respectively,  met the Election Commission of India(ECI) on April 30, to discuss about the poll related issues in Tripura.  The delegation handed over a letter to the chief election commissioner demanding a fresh poll for the Tripura West parliamentary constituency.

Below we reproduce the memorandum that was submitted to Sunil Arora, chief election commissioner at New Delhi.

We have come to the conclusion that the process of elections for 1-Tripura West parliamentary constituency, which was held on April 11, 2019, was marred by large-scale irregularities and outright rigging.  We have depended on the findings of the Election Commission of India (ECI) itself and documents available to us in that process.

Before going into the specifics of the poll irregularity, its extent and the necessary remedial action thereof, we would like to draw your attention to the fact that since February 20, 2019, we have brought to your notice the specific details of our apprehension about the possible threats to holding of free and fair poll.  We had met the Commission on March 6, two days before the announcement and the notification of the polls. Regrettably, our worst apprehensions have been vindicated based on the actual developments.

It is here that we had specifically raised the issue of the suitability of appointing the Returning Officer (RO) for the 1-Tripura West parliamentary constituency.  We had categorically pointed out that the RO, in his role as the district magistrate, had passed an order for stopping the publication, Daily Desharkatha, which smacked of partisanship against the progressive forces of the state.  The chief justice of the High Court of Tripura found this order not appropriate for implementation and stayed any further action.  In the light of this, and in keeping with precedents about the role of officers who have been implicitly restrained by the judiciary, he should not have been found suitable for holding crucial polling responsibility.  However, based on its inputs from the Tripura state administration, the Commission did not find anything amiss and continued with the same officer as the Returning Officer. 

Based on our complaints and the responses from the observers and others, the ECI had come to the conclusion that the experience of April 11 was grave enough for postponing the 2-Tripura East (ST) parliamentary constituency on April 18, as scheduled.    The ECI notification observed that: “Whereas reports have been received from the chief electoral officer, Tripura and from the special police observer, Tripura that the law and order situation prevailing in the said 2-Tripura East (ST) parliamentary constituency is not conducive to the holding of free and fair poll in the constituency on April 18, 2019.”

Seldom one finds such drastic action, on behalf of the ECI and all in the wake of the actual experience of April 11, the process of enquiry has brought out extremely disturbing facts.

A series of orders had been issued – from April 16, 17, 18 and 19, all detailing out various aspects of irregularities and fixing responsibility of several officers.

In the final document in the series of official documents available with us dated April 23, the RO had written to the additional chief electoral officer making a comprehensive statement about irregularities in 433 booths.

However, we have been given to understand that at the instance of the special observer, there are efforts to reduce the number of booths, where admittedly irregularities have occurred and, therefore, necessitated re-polling. 

The fact of the matter is that the scale of rigging and manipulation was much larger.  In the evening of April 11, based on preliminary reports, we had requested for re-polling in 464 booths out of a total 1,679 booths.

Subsequently, after the total information became available, we had demanded for re-polling in 846 booths.  There is no doubt in our mind that more than 50 per cent of the legitimate voters could not cast their vote on April 11, but, strangely, even after 20 days, the ECI has not been able to come to any definitive conclusion.  There is now a widespread perception among the people of Tripura that unlike in the past, the ECI could not redeem its commitment of holding a free and fair poll in the state. In fact, there is a strong resentment that not only has the ECI failed to the holding of democratic elections, but it is also hesitant to initiate remedial measures. 

In the light of all these, we commend the demand of the Left Front committee of Tripura to countermand the entire election in 1-Tripura West parliamentary constituency and hold a fresh poll for the entire parliamentary constituency It will be worthwhile to refer to the firm decision that was taken by the ECI in countermanding the polls for the Vellore parliamentary constituency in Tamilnadu on the proof that some money was recovered which would allegedly vitiate the polling process in the said constituency.

ENSURE FREE AND FAIR POLLS

After meeting the chief election commissioner, ECI at his office, the Party leaders held a press conference on April 30. The press conference was addressed by Sitaram Yechury, general secretary of the CPI(M) and was also  attended by Nilotpal Basu, Polit Bureau member and two Left Front candidates from Tripura West and East parliamentary constituencies- Sankar Prasad Datta and Jitendra Chowdhury respectively.

Sitaram explained the reasons for demanding a re-election in the entire Tripura West parliamentary constituency. He said there was widespread rigging and this was also confirmed by the election commission itself. However, the ECI is working in partisan manner and not countermanding the election.

Sitaram also addressed other queries made by the media. In a reply, he asserted that competitive communalism is witnessed in West Bengal between the TMC and the BJP. He termed both the TMC and BJP as two faces of the same coin. Terming the threat of 40 MLAs of TMC in contact with the PM as alarming; he said it is not akin to the level of what a PM of the country should be saying around. However, he said, there is also a strong jugalbandi (duet) between the TMC and BJP. He replied that it is only now that the country knows that the CM of West Bengal has been sending sweets and kurtas to the PM in a clandestine manner. There is an understanding between the two which the CPI(M) has been exposing, he said. The CPIM has given a slogan, defeat BJP –save India and defeat TMC-save West Bengal.