The Bharatiya Janata Party has won almost 96% of the seats in the Panchayat by-elections in Tripura uncontested. By-polls were scheduled to be held in 3,207 in gram panchayat, 161 in panchayat samitis and 18 Zilla Parishad seats. However, 3,247 of these were won by the BJP uncontested. The by-elections in most seats were necessitated due to either resignations or deaths of elected representatives.
Opposition parties have alleged that they were not allowed to file nomination papers and have demanded that the poll process be deferred and rescheduled. State Secretary of CPI(M), Bijan Dhar, said, “First, our elected representatives were forced to resign. Then, when we tried to field our candidates, they (BJP) they did not allow us to submit nomination papers.”
CPI(M) Central Committee member, Gautam Das, said, “The atmosphere is not conducive to holding free and fair panchayat elections in Tripura. Out of 35 blocks, non-BJP parties were not allowed to file nomination papers by ruling party supporters in 28 blocks.”
State Election Commissioner, G Kameshwara Rao, rubbished the claims of violence made by opposition parties. He asserted that no violence was reported in offices where nomination papers were filed, thus, their demands for postponement cannot be considered. He said, “There is not a single complaint against the Block Development Officers, who act as returning officers for gram panchayat polls or against district magistrates who function as returning officers for the Zilla Parishad polls.” He also added that there was no complaint against the Police either.
The BJP says that it won the seats uncontested because the opposition has no candidate to field. A spokesperson for the party, Mrinalkanti Deb, said, “Our people have won uncontested as the Opposition has no candidate to field. Their organisational base has shattered and the people have rejected them.”
The allegations made by the opposition parties appear to be based on half-truths as there have been reports of mass defections to the BJP. In March, it was reported that elected members of the Left Front in various local bodies had joined the BJP, which was a huge blow to the CPI(M) and its allies. In Kakrachera ADC village of Mungiakami block under Khowai subdivision, the Left Front had even turned minority as 4 of its members in the 7 member village committee defected to the BJP.
There has been a series of defections to the BJP since 2017 even before the party was elected to power in the state. Moreover, reports of major clashes involved the BJP and its ally IPFT and were limited to a single district. And as per reports, the CPI(M) filed nominations in only 115 seats, while the Congress in 120. BJP ally IPFT filed seats in only 63 while independents were contesting in 63 states.
Combined with the statements made by the State Election Commissioner and the fact that these are by-elections prompted by the resignation of elected members, it appears that the allegations of the opposition parties are mere political posturing.