A team from poll strategist Prashant Kishor's IPAC (Indian Political Action Committee) has allegedly been stopped from leaving their hotel in Tripura capital Agartala, where they went to do some surveys for Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress. The Tripura police have been camping at the hotel lobby and outside since the morning and are not allowing any of the 22 members of the IPAC team to leave the premises, sources in the organisation told NDTV.
The IPAC employees were in Agartala to assess the political situation and potential support base for the Trinamool Congress. Election in the BJP-ruled state is due in 2023.
The police has not given any official reason for the detention, only claiming the IPAC team had violated Covid norms. Sources in the IPAC said the team had all the necessary Covid-related papers.
The news of the detention coincided with Ms Banerjee's arrival in Delhi. Her stated agenda: Stitching up opposition unity against the BJP ahead of the 2024 national elections, in which Prashant Kishor -- her poll strategist in the assembly elections -- is apparently playing a key role.
Trinamool Congress general secretary, party MP and Ms Banerjee's nephew Abhishek Banerjee tweeted:
The fear in @BJP4Tripura before even @AITCofficial stepped into the land, is more than evident!— Abhishek Banerjee (@abhishekaitc) July 26, 2021
They are so rattled by our victory in #Bengal that they've now kept 23 IPAC employees under house arrest.
Democracy in this nation dies a thousand deaths under BJP's misrule!
The police said the questioning of the team at the hotel was part of routine check-up.
"The outsiders-- around 22 persons—were roaming around in various places. Since Covid restrictions are in place, we are inquiring to verify the reasons behind their arrival and stay in the city. They all underwent Covid tests on Monday, the reports are awaited," Manik Das, Superintendent of Police, West Tripura, was quoted as saying by news agency Press Trust of India.
"Results of their (IPAC members') RTPCR test will come tomorrow. They said they were here for some research-related work that is being investigated. After getting COVID test results and outcome of probe, decision will be taken on their release," Mr Das later said.
Trinamool's state unit chief Ashish Lal Singha called it an "attack on democracy".
"Being a resident of Tripura, I am shocked. It is not Tripura's culture. The BJP has panicked following the overwhelming response and support to the TMC due to the misrule of the BJP led government in Tripura," PTI quoted him as saying.