Tripura Congress cadres revolt against nominations for polls

Agartala, Jan 19 (IANS) Internal squabbles continue to plague the Congress in Tripura over the selection of candidates for the Feb 14 assembly polls, even forcing the party leadership to change one candidate Friday.

Congress general secretary Oscar Fernandes in a statement late Friday, nominated youth Congress leader Baptu Chakraborty to replace veteran Ratan Chakraborty in the Khayerpur assembly segment in western Tripura.

This was after some senior Congress leaders like former minister Jawahar Saha threatened to contest the elections as independents, even as clashes, filing of first information reports (FIRs) and resignations from party posts continued to trouble the party.

The Congress workers burnt down, damaged or locked party offices demanding changes in the nomination list of 48 candidates after it was announced by Fernandes Jan 11.

While the name of party candidate for one seat was not disclosed, 11 seats were given to party's long-time political ally INPT (Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura), which have a strong base among the tribals.

"Although the Congress allotted 11 seats to the INPT, the allocation is expected to be changed as National Conference of Tripura (NCT), another tribal-based party, wanted seat sharing with the Congress," a Congress leader told IANS Saturday.

Hundreds of Congress workers from Charilam in western Tripura have been protesting at the opposition leader Ratan Lal Nath's residence here. They met senior Congress leader Samir Ranjan Barman Saturday and demanded that royal scion Pradyot Bikram Kishore Debbarman be made the Congress nominee for the Charilam seat.

"The Congress leaders from Charilam would resign en masse from our respective party posts if Debbarma is not given the party ticket, replacing Himani Debbarma," Charilam block Congress president Amal Debnath said.

However, another section of Congress workers stormed the house of former legislator and party spokesperson Tapas Dey and threatened to murder him if he continued to support Pradyot Bikram Kishore Debbarman. Dey later filed an FIR against some party workers.

Tripura Pradesh Woman Congress president and former minister Bibha Nath has also hinted to resign from her post after she was denied the party ticket.

"While selecting party nominees, the party ignored women candidates. I want to work as an ordinary Congress worker not as a chief of party's women front," Nath told reporters at her residence at Dewanpasa in northern Tripura.

Senior Congress leader and former legislator Arun Kanti Bhowmik, also a senior lawyer, filed an FIR against six Congress workers at Kamalasagar in western Tripura for manhandling him and badly damaging his car last week.

The party's tribal department chairman Phani Bhusan Bhowmik and general secretary Debabrata Koloi were among the 32 who sent their resignations to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi demanding changes in nominations and reconsider alliances for the elections.

The Congress' internal quarrels begun after an unofficial list of party nominees was published in local newspapers Jan 5. The squabbles intensified after the official announcement of Congress candidates by Fernandes.

Although the ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist led Left Front leaders are busy campaigning, the Congress is yet to finalise nominations in all the 60 seats.

Tripura is set for polling Feb 14 while two other northeastern states Meghalaya and Nagaland will go to the polls Feb 23. Results will be announced Feb 28.

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