Tripura’s ruling alliance partners BJP and IPFT are most likely to contest the September 30 panchayat bypolls separately, while the opposition CPI-M and Congress maintained that the present atmosphere was not conducive to holding the byelections due to “terror spread by ruling party cadres”.
The by-elections to 3,386 vacant seats of gram panchayats (3,207 seats), panchayat samitis (161) and zila parishads (18) were necessitated by large-scale resignations and death of some elected representatives.
“We will field candidates for 3,386 vacant seats. The issue was discussed with IPFT leaders,” Law and Education Minister Ratan Lal Nath, also the chairman of BJP’s election committee, said.
On the other hand, IPFT general secretary and Forest Minister Mevar Kumar Jamatia said, “We will discuss the matter with the BJP leaders to jointly fight the elections. No discussion has been held yet with the BJP leaders to contest separately.”
Another main tribal political party, Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura, has not yet decided on contesting the polls.
CPI-M leader Bijan Dhar said, “Large- scale attacks, arson, loot and intimidation has continued since the BJP-IPFT alliance came to power in March. The ruling parties’ leaders and cadres forced thousands of elected panchayat representatives from opposition parties to resign.”
“Around 96 per cent of elected representatives of CPI-M and other non-BJP parties were forced to resign,” Dhar alleged.
The Left Front and Congress leaders separately met Tripura State Election Commissioner G. Kameswara Rao on Thursday and urged him to ensure security to opposition leaders and candidates besides a conducive environment to hold rural body elections.
Responding to charges, BJP leaders maintained that most of the elected representatives who resigned did so on their own or the CPI-M itself had asked them to resign.
Nath claimed that the CPI-M could foresee humiliating loss and was thus trying to escape a poll battle.
“We will not allow a pre-poll situation like in West Bengal to develop. Free and fair elections will be held in Tripura. Actually, the CPI-M is not finding people to field,” Nath said.
The last panchayat elections in Tripura were held in June 2014 and the next polls are due in or before June 2019.