The Communist Party of India (Marxist) on Friday claimed that its candidates for the panchayat polls in Tripura were stopped from filing nomination papers by “armed gangs” of the Bharatiya Janata Party. No election was required for as many as 82% of the panchayat seats as the BJP candidates won unopposed, The Times of India reported. The elections for rest of the seats are scheduled to be held on July 27.

“The Polit Bureau condemns the BJP’s authoritarian and anti-democratic tactics in Tripura which have made a travesty of the democratic exercise of panchayat elections,” the CPI(M) said. “It calls upon all democratic forces in the country to raise their voice of protest at this murder of democracy in Tripura.”

The CPI(M) alleged that during the nomination period from July 1 to July 8, its candidates and those of Opposition parties were prevented from collecting or filing nomination papers by BJP’s “gangs”. “Bike-borne hoodlums of the BJP were stationed before the election offices, so that no Opposition candidate could collect or submit nomination papers. In most of the places, the police were just onlookers,” the polit bureau of the CPI(M) said in a statement.

The CPI(M) claimed that physical attacks on candidates and attacks on its offices were resorted to “create an atmosphere of fear and intimidation”. “In such a situation, 121 CPI(M) candidates were forced to withdraw their nomination papers on the last day of withdrawal – July 11,” it said.

BJP’s Tripura spokesperson Ashok Sinha dismissed the allegations and said the CPI(M) just wanted to remain relevant with such statements, The Indian Express reported.

State Election Commissioner G Kameswara Rao said no party had lodged any official complaint with him over violence. Rao said CPI(M) leaders had met him once “but they did not have many complaints”.

“For the elections on July 27, there are now 306 candidates of the Left Front in the fray out of 6,111 seats; for the panchayat samiti, there are 56 candidates in the field out of 419 seats; and in the zilla parishad, there are 67 Left Front candidates for the 116 seats,” the CPI(M) statement said.

The party recalled that the BJP had won 96% of seats uncontested in the bye-elections to the three-tier panchayats held in 2018. “It may be recalled that the BJP had loudly protested the rigging of panchayat elections in West Bengal and had gone to the Supreme Court regarding the matter,” the CPI(M) said. “It is doing precisely this in a heightened manner in Tripura under its state government.”

Rao said that the Opposition’s participation in the elections, including panchayat polls, was never this low in Tripura, where voting percentages are high. “Except four to six blocks, the rest saw token nominations,” Rao said. “I cannot comment on factors behind the numbers...”