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SC orders ‘expeditious’ deployment of addition forces to Tripura amid civic polls

By Saima Siddiqui 
Updated Date

New Delhi: As civic body polls are underway in Tripura, Supreme Court on Thursday ordered deployment of two additional companies of CAPF (central armed police forces) “as expeditiously as possible” amid claims by opposition parties that workers of the ruling BJP were harassing and intimidating voters in the northeastern state.

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These personnel will remain deployed till counting of votes on November 28, the court added.

Tripura is holding civic body polls today, voting for which began at 7 am.

However, the opposition, including the Trinamool Congress and the CPI(M) have alleged BJP workers are bullying their candidates, as well as not allowing all voters to enter polling booths. Gangs with masked faces are going door to door warning voters to stay home, the parties have alleged.

One video tweeted by the Trinamool shows a man in a black shirt brazenly walking up to a woman trying to vote. He leans over the cardboard screen that is supposed to give the voter privacy, and seems to press a button on the EVM, after which the woman just walks away.

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“In such circumstances we direct the MHA (Ministry of Home Affairs) to deploy 2 additional companies of CAPF (Central Armed Police Force) as expeditiously as possible, having due regard to the fact the polling has commenced, so polling can take place without disruption,” the court said.

“SEC shall ensure every polling booth is manned by sufficient members of CAPF armed personnel to ensure free and fair elections,” the court also said.

Earlier, senior advocate Gopal Shankaranarayanan said: “Voting has started (and) in the last two-and-a-half hours itself we got several videos showing outsiders barging inside booths.”

“What is going on is absolute terrorism. I have videos to prove what I am saying. But I am not in a position to show the videos to the bench…” he said.

Mr Shankaranarayanan requested the court to order the deployment of additional forces.

Senior advocate Mahesh Jethmalani (appearing for the Tripura government) said: “Polling going on absolutely peacefully. Only hindrances are the petitioners and the intervenors.

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“Instead of doing the anti-mortem and post-mortem now, we’ll now direct MHA to immediately deploy 2 additional companies of any central armed forces,” the court declared.

The civic polls are being held virtually under the Supreme Court’s watch.

In an order on a Trinamool appeal last week, the court told the Tripura government to ensure the opposition was allowed to operate in the political space.

Trinamool MP Sushmita Dev went back to the court, accusing the Tripura government of contempt of court for violating its order and requested that the election should be deferred.

Elections were scheduled for 20 civic bodies, seven of which the BJP has won unopposed.

The Trinamool, a recent entrant into Tripura politics, has fielded candidates in all 51 wards of the civic body. The CPI(M) has skipped candidates in a few seats.

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