Agartala, Feb 24: A fresh controversy has erupted between the ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI(M)) and the Election Commission (EC) in Tripura over the latter's decision to order re-polling in six booths in six assembly constituencies where Assembly elections were held on February 18.
On Friday, the EC ordered repolling in one polling booth each in Sonamura, Teliamura, Sabroom, Ampinagar, Kadamtala-Kurti and Dhanpur Assembly constituencies on February 26. The EC's decision drew sharp criticism from the ruling CPI(M), which accused the state election department of failing to conduct a proper election and "criminal negligence".
CPI(M) state secretary Bijan Dhar threatened to take political action against those responsible for the "negligence" through movements on the streets while expressing the party's ire at the EC's decision to order re-polling in the six booths.
He claimed that repolling was ordered only in constituencies where the CPI (M)-led Left Front had clear winning prospects and raised questions on the neutrality of the state election department. Dhanpur is the home turf of chief minister Manik Sarkar since 1998. The veteran CPI(M) leader has been elected from the constituency for four consecutive terms.
Referring to the glitches in the electronic voting machines (EVMs) at some places on polling day, Dhar told reporters, "It is now well known how the voters suffered due to an inordinate delay, till midnight, to cast their ballots. This happened because of the incompetence and apathy of the election department officials."
He wondered what could have caused the delay, despite the deployment of so many poll observers, special observers, micro observers and "countless" other officials.
"Chief Electoral Officer Sriram Taranikanti and other officials showed criminal negligence in holding the polls...Nobody will be spared. Every official responsible for this failure in conducting a proper election will have to testify before the people," the CPI(M) leader said.
He also questioned whether the poll personnel were properly trained to perform their duties or not. Dhar said no political party had demanded repolling in the six booths and claimed that the EC had ordered it on the basis of reports from the state election department.
"We (CPI(M)) had demanded repolling in three booths of the Takarjala constituency, citing specific grounds like voters were prevented from coming to the booths and our polling agents were driven out. But it has not yet been granted. We insist on an answer to our demand for repolling and shifting of the counting centre from Takarjala because of the violent situation there," he added.
"This is a clear failure on the part of the election department, which we will protest against...We will identify the officials, right from the CEO to the lowest level, who was responsible and take to the streets, demanding action against them. We have made enough requests and appeals, but now is the time to take political action through movements on the streets," the Left leader said.
State BJP spokesperson Ashok Sinha welcomed the EC's decision to order repolling.
"We too were unhappy with the malfunctioning of the EVMs. The EC has taken a well-considered decision and we welcome it," he said.
Polling for 59 of the 60 Assembly seats was held in the north-eastern state on February 18. Polling was countermanded in the Charilam constituency due to the death of CPI(M) candidate Ramendra Narayan Debbarma ahead of the election.
The Assembly polls are scheduled in two other northeastern states--Meghalaya and Nagaland--on February 27. The results of all the three Assembly elections will be declared on March 3.
Since last year, after Assembly elections were held in five states, various opposition parties have been questioning the "neutrality" of the EC over the alleged tampering of EVMs. Several opposition parties like the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) alleged that the "tampered EVMs" is the reason behind the BJP's win in almost all elections.
In Tripura, the resurgent BJP is in direct contest with the incumbent CPI(M)-led Left Front government in the recently held elections. The BJP is confident of winning the elections by defeating the 25-year old Left Front government in the northeastern state.