Manik Sarkar

Agartala: A ‘Battle Royale’ between the ruling BJP and the Trinamool Congress besides the CPI(M), which at one time ruled Tripura with an iron grip, is expected to ensue for elections to the Agartala Municipal Corporation (AMC) and 13 other town civic bodies in Tripura on Thursday amid court cases, arrests, and allegations of attacks by political parties.

The ruling BJP, which has fielded candidates in all seats in Tripura civic elections, has already won 112 out of the total 334 seats uncontested in the Agartala Municipal Corporation (AMC) and 19 urban bodies.

Nevertheless, a three-way battle is expected to ensue for the remaining seats, given the high voltage-drama witnessed in the run up to the elections, which saw the TMC sending its to leaders to Tripura and the BJP fighting back politically.

For the TMC, a strong footprint in Agartala and elsewhere in the northeastern state is essential as it hopes to topple the BJP in Tripura’s state election in 2023 and also emerge as a strong opposition to the BJP on a national scale. While for the CPI (M), it is a chance to show that it still retains deep pockets of influence in the state.

A total of 785 contestants are in the fray for the remaining 222 seats after 36 candidates withdrew their nominations. Altogether there are 334 seats in the urban local bodies, including Agartala Municipal Corporation (51 wards), 13 Municipal Councils, and six Nagar Panchayats across the state.

Thirty-six candidates, including 15 candidates of the opposition CPI-M, four of Trinamool Congress (TMC), eight of Congress, two of the AIFB, and seven Independent candidates withdrew their nominations, an official said.

Ambassa Municipal Council, Jirania Nagar Panchayat, Mohanpur Municipal Council, Ranirbazar Municipal Council, Bishalgarh Municipal Council, Udaipur Municipal Council and Santirbazar Municipal Council have no opposition candidates.

A total of 5,94,772 voters are eligible to cast their votes in the civic poll and the number of women voters outnumber male voters in urban areas.

Meanwhile, TMC youth leader Saayoni Ghosh, who was arrested on charges of criminal intimidation and attempt to murder, was on Monday granted bail by the court of Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate in West Tripura district.

The West Bengal Trinamool Youth Congress president was on Sunday arrested on charges of criminal intimidation, attempt to murder, and promotion of disharmony between groups after she raised the party’s ‘khela hobe’ (game will be played) slogan outside a meeting being addressed by the state Chief Minister Biplab Deb.

The TMC leadership claimed several party activists came under attack when they had gathered outside the police station, where Ghosh was taken after her arrest.

The state has been witnessing protests and violence in the run-up to the polls. CPM state secretary Jitendra Chaudhury alleged that their candidates were forced to withdraw their nominations “due to terror let loose by goons” owing allegiance to the BJP.

“Violence began much before the announcement of the schedule of the civic polls. Many of our party activists were attacked and our candidates in five municipal councils and two Nagar panchayats could not file their nominations. An unprecedented terror was let loose by BJP-sheltered goons,” he told reporters.

In the last week of October, TMC’s Sushmita Dev had written a letter to Tripura Governor Satyadeo Narain Arya, seeking his intervention in the law and order in the state, alleging that the situation was extremely critical.

In her letter, she had written: “The extremely critical situation that is prevailing in the state of Tripura needs immediate attention. The law and order is at its worst. Many districts of Tripura have witnessed violence and vandalism against people and property.”

Thursday’s civic body elections are crucial for all parties and are being looked as a precursor to the Assembly elections, which is scheduled for 2023.

Days ahead of municipal body elections in Tripura, two rebel MLAs of the ruling BJP in the state on Tuesday alleged that the recent political violence in Tripura has tarnished the reputation of the party and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which might influence the saffron party’s poll prospects in the assembly elections in five states.

The MLAs, Sudip Roy Burman and Asish Saha, told a press conference here that the country’s apex court, Tripura High Court, and even Union Home Minister Amit Shah had to intervene in the recent political violence ahead of the civic polls.

On November 11, the top court had directed the Tripura government to ensure that no political party including TMC in the fray for local body polls of the state is prevented from pursuing electoral rights in accordance with law and from campaigning in a peaceful and orderly manner.

It had issued notice to the state government on the plea by TMC and its Rajya Sabha MP Sushmita Dev seeking security for the party workers and representatives alleging wide-scale violence against them.

A delegation of TMC MPs had met Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Monday alleging police violence in Tripura.

The legislators who were sitting on a dharna outside the Ministry of Home Affairs since Monday morning were given an appointment to meet Shah in the afternoon.

BJP MLA Asish Das, who is close to Burman, had on October 31 joined the Trinamool Congress by taking the party flag from AITC general secretary Abhishek Banerjee at a public meeting here.

A highly placed source in the BJP said, “The rebel MLAs including Burman, Saha, and others are keeping a close link with TMC and they are working to harm the political prospect of our party.”

Also read: Tripura BJP MLAs criticise state govt over recent political violence

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