Poll Officials Face FIRs Over Lapses in Tripura West

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Agartala: The Election Commission (EC) will file FIRs against presiding officers and political activists who indulged in malpractices during the first phase of polling in Tripura West Lok Sabha constituency on April 11, according to officials on Thursday.

“Following the instructions of the EC, I have asked all the 19 Assistant Returning Officers to file FIRs with the police against those presiding officers, polling officials, polling agents and political activists who indulged in unlawful activities and disturbed the election process,” Returning Officer to the Tripura West Lok Sabha constituency Sandeep Mahatme told IANS.

Mahatme, also the District Magistrate and Collector of West Tripura District, said, “At the moment we are unable to tell the exact number of people against whom FIRs are being registered as the process is on in several places.”

The police have been asked to arrest people involved in offences during the polling. They were being identified by studying webcasting, CCTV footage, official documents and complaints of the political parties, the official said. On the possible re-polling, Mahatme said: “We have sent our reports and recommendations to the EC after studying reports of central observers, police observers, district magistrates and facts & evidences of the webcasting of polling.”

Meanwhile, Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Sriram Taranikanti, summoned by the EC, left on Thursday for New Delhi. Tripura has two Lok Sabha constituencies. Polling in the Tripura West seat was held on April 11 and the EC has deferred the voting in the Tripura East constituency from April 18 to April 23, citing “unconducive security situation”. In another development, Returning Officer to the Tripura East seat Vikas Singh (also District Magistrate and Collector of the Dhalai District) has served a notice to BJP candidate Rebati Tripura for breaching the spending limit.

As per the EC guideline, a Lok Sabha candidate in the northeastern States is allowed to spend Rs 70 lakh for campaign and other electoral purposes.

Alleging large-scale malpractices, the Congress on Thursday again demanded fresh election to the Tripura West constituency, while the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) demanded re-polling in 774 of the 1,679 polling stations. Tripura Congress vice-president Tapas Dey said the AICC would raise the fresh polling issue with the EC. The Congress and the CPI-M leaders on Thursday reiterated that election to the Tripura West seat was “farcical” and was rigged by the BJP and its hooligans as the central and state forces were kept away.

Despite repeated assurances, the EC and the Tripura CEO failed to ensure free and fair voting in the seat, CPI-M State Secretary and party’s Central Committee member Gautam Das said.

BJP spokesman Nabendu Bhattacharjee, however, rejected these accusations saying the opposition was making false allegations. (IANS)