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Tripura records over 81% voter turnout till 4 pm, number likely to go up

Agartala: Tripura recorded over 81 per cent polling till 4 pm in the one-day election to the 60-member Tripura assembly on Thursday, a senior EC official said.

The voting percentage will increase as around 50,000 voters are still standing in queues at the polling stations to exercise their franchise, the official said.

”Till 4 pm, an average 81.11 per cent polling was recorded in all the 60 Assembly constituencies, while around 50,000 voters are still in queues when the report came in last,” additional chief electoral officer U J Mog told IWP.

Voters who are in the queues and took tokens by 4 pm will be allowed to cast their votes even after 6 pm or beyond, he added.

In the 2018 assembly election, voting had continued beyond the stipulated time till 9.30 pm and the overall turnout was 79 per cent.

Bru refugees who resettled in the state recently took part in the polling for the first time. Of the total 37,136 Bru population in the state 14,005 are eligible to vote.

Voting began at 7 am in all the 3337 polling stations and gained pace as the day progressed.

At least three people, including a CPI-M leader and two polling agents of the Left party, were injured in separate incidents of violence during the polling.

The exercise began at 7 am and is scheduled to continue till 4 pm.

However, sporadic incidents of violence were also reported during the exercise.

A CPI-M local committee secretary was injured after being attacked by unidentified people in Boxanagar area in Sepahijala district. He was taken to a nearby health facility, where his condition is stated to be stable, a police officer said.

Two CPI-M polling agents were also severely beaten up in Kakraban assembly constituency in Gomati district. A vehicle belonging to the polling agent of CPI-M candidate Pabitra Kar was also ransacked at Khayerpur in West Tripura district.

Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Gitte Kirankumar Dinakarrao said EVM malfunctioning was reported in 40-45 places but all the machines were replaced and voting resumed, adding the ECI is sending additional forces wherever required.

“There has been no report of booth jam or capturing so far,” he said.

Chief Minister Manik Saha, who is contesting the polls from Town Bardowali constituency, was among the early voters. He exuded confidence that the BJP will secure an absolute majority in the assembly.

“I am 100 per cent confident that the BJP will secure absolute majority in the elections. The party may get more seats than it did the last time,” he told reporters on his way to a polling booth.

Leader of Opposition Manik Sarkar, after casting his vote in Ramnagar constituency, appealed to the people to “brave all odds” and unitedly cast their votes for forming a new government that will create an atmosphere of democracy, peace and tranquility.

Rajya Sabha MP and former CM Biplab Kumar Deb exuded confidence that the BJP will win 40 of the 60 seats in the state.

“Tripura has a tradition of giving massive mandate… The BJP-IPFT alliance has won 44 seats in 2018 polls, the Left Front has bagged more than 40 seats in 2002,” he said.

“The northeastern state has witnessed massive development on all fronts — from education to healthcare to infrastructure — in the last five years. I am sure people will bless the BJP by ensuring the victory of our candidates in more than 40 seats,” the former CM said.

Deb offered prayers at the Tripureswari temple before going to cast his vote in Udaipur.

As the voting progressed, the CPI-M and the Congress thanked electors for exercising their democratic right to “restore democracy” by defying all obstacles.

“I thank electors in all the 60 assembly seats for voting to restore democracy against all the odds. Some incidents of violence were reported but people showed courage,” CPI-M state secretary Jitendra Chaudhury said in a video message from Sabroom, from where he is contesting the polls.

“Despite threats and intimidation, the peace-loving people came out and participated in the festival of democracy to oust the present government. I appeal to those voters who have not turned up yet to go to the booths and exercise their democratic right to restore democracy,” he said.

Congress MLA Sudip Roy Barman congratulated the voters for casting their votes in large numbers despite “terror tactics”.

“I congratulate the electors for voting despite the terror tactics. Sensing their (BJP) impending defeat, they are desperate to create trouble. The people of Tripura have already decided to vote for restoration of democracy,” he told reporters.

Roy Barman also appealed to the people not to leave the booths without exercising their franchise due to slow pace of voting or some technical snag.

The northeastern state, where top leaders had stepped up their electoral spadework over the past few days, is set to witness a triangular fight this time, with the BJP-IPFT coalition seeking to retain supremacy, the Left-Congress combine looking to wrest power, and regional outfit Tipra Motha making its debut at the hustings after its stunning performance in the autonomous council polls.

The BJP-IPFT alliance, which had won 18 of 20 seats in the tribal areas last elections, however, is facing a tough challenge this time from the Tipra Motha, headed by erstwhile royal scion Pradyot Manikya Debbarma, given that the regional outfit had made a big splash in Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC) polls two years ago, bagging 18 of the 30 seats.

Altogether 28.13 lakh voters are eligible to exercise their franchise during the day in 3,337 polling stations of the northeastern state to determine the fate of 259 candidates, the CEO said.

Of the 3,337 polling stations, 1,100 booths have been identified as sensitive and 28 as critical. As many as 97 booths are being managed by the women polling personnel.

The international and inter-state boundaries have been sealed to keep trouble-makers at bay during the voting process, he said.

As part of precautionary measures, prohibitory orders have been imposed across the state till 6 am on February 17, the CEO stated.

“As many as 31,000 polling personnel and 25,000 security personnel of central forces will be on guard to ensure the election is conducted in a free, fair and peaceful manner. Besides, 31,000 officials of the state armed police and the state police will be deployed at various places to maintain law and order,” he explained.

Dinakarrao also said that an air ambulance has been stationed at Agartala airport for emergencies.

“Special initiatives have been taken for physically challenged and old voters so that they don’t face any inconvenience at the booths,” he said.

The BJP is contesting 55 assembly seats, and its ally IPFT has fielded candidates in six constituencies. The two parties will be having a friendly fight in one seat.

The Left Front is contesting 47 seats and the Congress 13 constituencies.

The TMC has fielded nominees in 28 constituencies. Apart from that, there are 58 Independent aspirants in the fray.

Votes will be counted on March 2.