BJP’s Violent Drive to Make a Mockery of Tripura Urban Bodies Polls
THE election to 20 urban bodies in Tripura has been declared to be held on November 25. The elections have been pending since December 2020 because the ruling BJP was waiting for its convenient time and used the Covid pandemic as an excuse. The urban bodies include Agartala Municipal Corporation having a total of 3,45,239 electors, 13 municipal councils having a total of 2,04,706 voters and six nagar panchayats with 44,827 electorates. The total number of seats in all the urban bodies is 334.
The state election commissioner separately met representatives of all recognised political parties on October 21, the day before the declaration of election. The Left parties, including the CPI(M), while assuring the commission of its full cooperation, vehemently pressed for restoration of a conducive atmosphere for holding free, fair and peaceful elections. They cited the recent series of attacks on the opposition parties, particularly the CPI(M), and a section of media known to be critical of the government on various issues. The CPI(M) representatives apprised the commissioner about the widespread, unprovoked and one-sided violence unleashed by the BJP miscreants on September 8 on no less than 43 CPI(M) offices throughout the state, including the CPI(M) state committee office, 4 district committee offices, 7 sub-divisional committee offices and 27 local committee offices which were either arsoned, demolished by bulldozer or extensively rampaged. This large-scale mayhem of the BJP miscreants could be possible only for the abetting attitude of police who remained onlookers in many places where violence was going on.
They also informed the commission that there was no respite from attacks on the houses of Left party leaders, cadres and common supporters and physical assaults throughout the state even after the black September 8th events. They argued, as law and order situation coupled with the impartial role of the police is a pre-condition to conduct free, fair and peaceful election, it was imperative for the commission to intervene to maintain law and order situation. The commission assured representatives about all possible measures to conduct free, fair poll and restoration of law and order atmosphere conducive to fair free election.
Being assured by the commission, the Left parties decided to file as many nominations on October 27. They filed nominations in 13 urban bodies, including Agartala Municipal Corporation, on the first and second days of the process.
Not expecting such large number of nominations filed by the Left parties on the very first day with massive mobilisation everywhere, the BJP then fielded their paid bike-borne miscreants firstly to prevent nominations by the Left parties in the remaining seven urban bodies and secondly to compel as many as Left candidates to withdraw by terror and threats. The BJP miscreants crowded the office premises of the returning officers to prevent Left candidates from filing nominations. In Agartala city, Dharmanagar, Khowai, Melaghar and Belonia, the BJP miscreants raided houses of the Left candidates, their proposers and threatened them with dire consequences if they didn’t stand aside from the election. In several places, they either set fire to the houses, extensively vandalised the houses of the candidates destroying all articles.
The Left leaders frantically sought intervention and cooperation from the Election Commission, district civil and police administrations to help the intending Left candidates to file nominations in those seven urban bodies, namely Kamalpur NP, Jirania NP, Ranirbazar MC, Mohanpur MC, Bishalgarh MC, Udaipur MC and Santirbazar MC, were the BJP miscreants started crowding inside the office of the ROs right from the first day of nomination to prevent filing of nominations by any opposition parties. The BJP miscreants started squatting in various points of the approach roads leading to the offices of the concerned ROs with lethal weapons.
As a last resort to file nominations in the remaining municipal councils/nagar panchayats, and stop the aggressive terror drive of the ruling BJP for withdrawal of opposition candidates, a Left Front delegation headed by its convener Narayan Kar sought a meeting with the election commissioner on November 2 to urge for his intervention in the prevailing undemocratic atmosphere. Surprisingly, the commissioner did not agree to meet the Left Front delegation without assigning any reason. Naturally, all the attempts of the Left parties to file nominations in those bodies proved futile due to noncooperation from the Election Commission and the police authorities who ultimately helped the ruling BJP to win those urban bodies without contest.
On the last day of withdrawal of nomination on November 8, the BJP miscreants could succeed in compelling 15 candidates to withdraw under duress. Out of total 334 seats in 20 urban bodies, the contest position of the parties is: Left Front- 208 (CPI(M)-197, CPI-6, AIFB-3 and RSP-2), BJP 334, Congress-92, TMC-120, independent and others-31.
The CPI(M) state secretariat in a statement said that the state election commission as well as the police administration has utterly failed to help the opposition parties to file nominations in seven municipal councils/nagar panchayats, and contain terror spree of the ruling BJP with an attempt to reduce election to a mockery. Eventually, out of these seven urban bodies, five are located inside the assembly constituencies of four influential cabinet ministers. Such attempts to capture local bodies applying the most undemocratic brute force is an imminent danger for the democracy in the country, the statement said.
The Tripura Left Front committee in a statement appealed to the electorate: “The people of the state are now very much annoyed by the deception of the ruling BJP by its ‘vision document’. Sensing the pulse of the people’s mind, the BJP has escalated their terror drive to prevent Left parties from filing nominations and compelling withdrawal by those who filed nominations. Many candidates, their relatives, proposers and even Left cadres were physically attacked, their houses either set on fire, demolished or extensively ransacked and looted. All these happened due to the partisan role of the police and Election Commission as pawns to the ruling BJP and utter failure to discharge their responsibility enshrined in the constitution.”
INCIDENTS OF ATTACKS
On October 26, Pran Kumar Das, a CPI(M) activist, was mercilessly beaten up in front of the RO (SDM, Kamalpur) while he was coming out of his office after attending an all-party meeting convened by the returning officer. Though the police rescued him from the clutches of the ruling BJP rowdies, the police did not register any FIR against the offenders.
On November 4, on Diwali, a gang of BJP miscreants riding motorcycles forcibly picked up Nikunja Debnath, CPI(M) candidate of Ward No. 3 of Dharmanagar MC, and dragged him before the RO, Dharmanagar and compelled him to sign a withdrawal paper. As dictated by BJP leaders, the RO accepted his withdrawal. But when the question arises how he accepted resignation on a holiday, he realised that a mistake had occurred. Thus, he retained his candidature in scrutiny the next day.
On November 5th night, BJP miscreants extensively ransacked the house of Bhola Das, CPI(M) candidate from Ward No. 5, Belonia MC, and looted valuable articles. The miscreants broke everything inside the house, compelling him to leave the house and take refuge elsewhere. This was the consequence of the threat given by the same gang of miscreants on October 29th night.
In spite of the attack on her house by the armed BJP miscreants, Baby Majumder, CPI(M) candidate from Ward No. 7 of Sonamura NP, did not bow down to the pressure of the miscreants and declared that even if she is killed, that would be the best honour than withdrawing. Then the armed BJP gang rushed to the house of her married daughter at Kathalia at night, looted everything from the house, and pointing firearms at the head of Koushik Chanda, her son-in-law, and grandson, they asked them to persuade Baby Majumder to withdraw. This attack was led by Biswajit Bhowmik, the brother of central minister Pratima Bhowmik.
Citing all these despotic attacks and undemocratic actions of the ruling BJP, CPI(M) state secretary Jitendra Chaudhury in a letter to the State Election Commission on November 6, asked, “Is this the manner of your ‘free, fair and peaceful’ election that you assured the delegates in the all party meeting? Do the victims of BJP’s armed gangs deserve such material loss and mental agony only for his/her ‘fault’ of being an opposition candidate or proposer? Don’t you think the aggressive trend of being elected without contest by the ruling party using state power is imminent danger to democracy?”
In spite of the renewed terror drive of the BJP’s gangs, the Left Front candidates who could succeed in retaining nominations have resolved to fight the battle to the last. They are approaching house to house appealing for support of the electors citing the achievements they garnered during the tenure of the outgoing Left council and mostly importantly, to get rid of the suffocating atmosphere where any kind of protest is rudely trampled. Till now the people are receiving the Left candidates warmly and responding positively.
Though the majority of electors of the urban bodies of Tripura are eager to restore democracy in the state, they have to pass three more crucial phases of the elections – the campaign, polling and the counting of votes where elections will be held. Expectedly, the BJP would not let any phase to go peacefully without violence. The outcome of the election would depend on the zeal of the electors to defend their right to vote by themselves for the candidates of their choice.