Heavy turnout, peaceful poll in Tripura


Agartala : Voting to elect a new government in the northeastern state of Tripura ended peacefully Saturday evening with more than 80 percent people exercising their franchise.

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“Over 80 percent of the 2.03 million voters have cast their ballot across the state,” said G.S.G. Ayyangar, the chief electoral officer.

“The voting passed off peacefully with no incident reported from anywhere in the state.”

Voters in large numbers queued up well before polling opened and many voted until the last hour.

The ballots will be counted March 8. The poll will decide the electoral fate of 313 candidates, including 31 women and 64 independents.

Political parties also expressed their happiness over the heavy turnout of voters and peaceful elections.

Quoting reports from various districts, police spokesman Nepal Das said: “Not a single incident was reported from anywhere in the state. The situation was completely peaceful in the extremist-dominated areas too.”

“Only some minor scuffles took place between political leaders and security forces in some places,” a senior police official said.

In the wake of threats from separatists and the possibility of violence, a record 60,000 security personnel had been deployed while four air surveillance teams led by senior police officials also kept vigil.

“I am happy that the election passed off peacefully and the people, especially women, came out in large numbers to exercise their democratic franchise,” Chief Minister Manik Sarkar said after casting his vote in a school here.

Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) spokesman Gautam Das said: “We are happy with the heavy turnout of the voters.”

The Congress accused the CPI-M of threatening party supporters.

“CPI-M cadres had intimidated Congress voters in some places,” said Tapas Dey, Tripura Congress spokesman.

The Election Commission deployed specially customised electronic voting machines (EVM) in all the 2,391 polling stations across the state to check possible malpractice and other irregularities. In some polling stations, there were some technical snags in the EVMs.

About 16,000 poll officials have been deployed to conduct the elections. Each polling official has received a life insurance cover of Rs.200,000.

Of the 2,391 polling stations, 108 were identified as very vulnerable and 550 as vulnerable in view of militancy and other security related problems.

The Election Commission, for the first time, appointed 750 micro observers to assist 60 general observers to oversee the poll preparations.

Saturday’s vote will decide the fate of Chief Minister Sarkar, his 10 cabinet colleagues, two former chief ministers – Samir Ranjan Burman and Sudhir Ranjan Majumder – Rajmata Bibhu Kumari Devi, opposition leader Ratan Lal Nath, Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura (INPT) president and former militant leader Bijoy Kumar Hrangkhawl and a host of others.

After a month-long high-voltage campaign, the ruling CPI-M led Left Front was locked in a direct fight against the opposition combine of the Congress and the INPT.

The Left Front, which has been in power here since 1978 barring one term (1988-1993), has faced a setback with its ally Forward Bloc fielding its own candidates in 12 constituencies.