Over 32 percent voters exercised their choice in the first four hours amid high security for the 60-member Tripura Assembly election on Thursday.
Police said except for some sporadic complaints of violence in Ramnagar and Khayerpur constituencies of Agartala from opposition parties, polling has been peaceful across the tiny North Eastern state, where a total electorate of around 28.13 lakhs – including 13.98 lakh women and 77 third genders – is eligible to decide the fate of 259 candidates across 3328 polling stations.
“An average of 32.12 percent votes have been cast till 11 am,” an election official said. The highest turnout recorded so far is 38.52 percent in the Bardowali constituency of Agartala where Chief Minister Dr Manik Saha and Congress heavyweight Ashish Kumar Saha are pitted against each other.
A CPI supporter was beaten up outside the Kalacherra polling station in the Shantirbaazar constituency of South Tripura district when he was on his way to the polling station. He has been hospitalised and a suo motu FIR lodged, police said.
Most of the polling stations in the city saw a high turnout of voters and long queues in front of the booths. The polling, which began at 7 AM at a brisk pace, was slow initially in some polling stations where EVMs malfunctioned or the polling staff are on their maiden election duty. As many as 10 polling stations in the city are being managed by all women polling officials and women security personnel.
The Chief Minister cast his vote at Maharani Tulsibati HS School in front of Ujjayanta Palace and claimed that not only would he coast to a big win from the Bardowali seat, but BJP will also return to power with a comfortable majority, as people have rejected the CPI-M-Congress alliance in the election.
“I appeal to the voters to come out in large numbers and cast their vote without any fear. ECI has made elaborate security arrangements and efforts have been made to present this election as a model before the country. I am in close in touch with the administration and no problem has been reported so far from anywhere,” Chief Minister said.
In the midst of a tough battle for state power, the Abhoynagar area under Agartala constituency sprang a pleasant surprise as both Congress and BJP workers erected their makeshift booth camp together and shared snacks with a smile. In Agartala, heavyweight Congress leader Sudip Roybarman is contesting against BJP nominee and party’s state general secretary Papia Datta.
However, CPI-M alleged that BJP cadres have been preventing the voters from reaching polling stations in Ramnagar and Khayerpur constituencies and security forces are not adequate. The central forces have been confined to the polling stations managing the booths while the state police and TSR personnel deployed on the road are beign mute spectators.
“The BJP cadres violated prohibitory orders in force under section 144 and assembled in large numbers despite the presence of the police and prevented the voters from voting by issuing direct threats. Moreover, in a few booths, they have been jamming the booths with the help of BLOs. The response of election machinery is very slow,” alleged CPI-M leader Ratan Das.
The ruling BJP is in the fray in 55 constituencies while its coalition partner Indigenous Peoples Front of Tripura (IPFT) is contesting in six seats, as they could not arrive at an understanding in Ampinagar,
Throwing a challenge to the saffron camp, one-time arch-rivals Left Front and the Congress have joined hands. The Left Front’s main constituent CPI-M has fielded candidates in 43 seats, its other partners CPI, Forward Bloc, and RSP are in the fray in one seat each, while Congress has been allotted 13 seats.
In Ramangar, both LF and Congress are backing an independent candidate, a renowned lawyer, and human rights activist Purusattam Roybarman.
Tribal outfit Tipra Motha, led by popular royal scion Pradyot Kishore Debbarman, has put up candidates in 42 seats, while the Trinamool Congress is battling in 28 constituencies.
There are 58 independents and 20 women aspirants in the race.
The vote count is on March 2.