The Congress and the Left parties in poll-bound Tripura organised a rally of “democratic and secular forces” in Agartala on Saturday seeking protection of the rights of voters.
The show of solidarity before the February 16 Assembly polls came amid fresh indication that the Congress and the Left, once bitter rivals, were close to announcing a formal alliance to take on the ruling BJP-IPFT combine.
The rally, styled “My Vote, My Right”, was not held under the banner of either the Left parties or the Congress. It drew participation from political leaders, social activists and senior citizens, who articulated their demand for a free and fair election.
The participants waved the national flag during the 3km march from Rabindra Bhavan to the chief electoral officer’s (CEO) office via the Old Motor Stand. Senior leaders of the Left Front and the Congress addressed the participants.
The entire stretch resounded with slogans directed at the Election Commission to “ensure our votes” and “take steps to check attacks” on voters.
The speakers demanded free and fair polls, which they said had been “denied” in the past five years of the BJPled government. The rally concluded after a delegation met CEO Gitte Kirankumar Dinkarrao to press for free and fair polls.
The rally came a day after the Election Commission took cognisance of Wednesday’s clash between Congress and BJP supporters in the Jirania subdivision of West Tripura district, during which Congress general secretary Ajoy Kumar was injured. Kumar participated in Saturday’s rally.
The commission has punished three police officers for failing to take appropriate action in time to check the flare-up, and appointed three special observers to assess the situation and ensure the proper deployment of forces.
Senior Congress leader Sudip Roy Barman told The Telegraph: “It was a people’s rally of secular and democratic forces to save democracy, save the Constitution and ensure free and fair polls which the people of Tripura have been deprived of over the past five years by the BJP-led government.”
Barman added: “The rally was also to apprise the CEO of the incidents that took place before and after the announcement of polls on Wednesday, to convey the people’s wish to be able to vote freely. We have demanded the arrest of a minister who instigated the Jirania clash. He has assured us of free and fair polls.”
State CPM secretary Jitendra Chaudhury said the rally had raised a popular demand for free and fair elections.
He said the rally participants had urged the poll panel and the CEO to be firmer in dealing with those involved in violence. The CEO, he said, had promised to look into these concerns.
Chaudhury stressed the need for a “level playing field”.
Asked when the Congress might announce a formal alliance with the Left, Barman said they had held the first round of talks on Thursday morning, which was followed by a media interaction on the January 21 rally.
“We are hoping for a formal alliance announcement, with seat sharing, in the next couple of days,” Barman said.
Ajoy Kumar and the CPM state secretary had set the alliance talks rolling on January 13, with Kumar saying the state leadership would take the talks forward.