Tripura to go to polls on Feb 23 amid tight security

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Agartala, Feb 22: Spectre of violence is looming large on Tripura as the state goes to polls tomorrow to elect the 60-member House under a massive security cover.

Major political parties - ruling CPI (M) and Opposition Congress - had expressed satisfaction over the measures, taken by the Election Commission of India, but allegations of threats and intimidation were also reported by different political parties ahead of the election. There was no major pre-poll violence excepting one at Ampura under Ramchandraghat constituency in West Tripura in which 45 Left Front supporters were injured critically when a group of INPT activists attacked them last night, said police spokesperson Nepal Das. Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) G S G Ayyanger told to the sources that all 16,000 polling staff had been covered by life insurance of Rs two lakh. Out of 43,000 security personnel, deployed for polling, about 5,000 Central Paramilitary Forces (CPMF) would be maintaining 108 very vulnerable and 550 vulnerable polling stations, he added. Altogether 2391 polling booths were set up for 20,36,980 electorate, including 9,96,582 female, to exercise their franchise to decide the fate of 313 candidates, including 28 female aspirants and 64 Independents. Dr Ayyanger said the non-statutory election materials had been distributed among 2370 polling staff.

The Election Commission had deployed special Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in all the polling booths, Dr Ayyanger said adding seven polling officials were appointed for 121 critical stations, while the remaining 2271 booths would be managed by six officials.

Both Presiding Officers and micro-observers would be feeding Returning Officers and Observers respectively every hour, Dr Ayyanger informed. The Election Commission had sent 23 people, including 16 Central Paramilitary Force (CPMF) personnel, to ensure the right of only four voters in the outskirt of Agartala, he stated.

The booth no 17 at Jampuijala J B Colony School under Takarjala (Tribal Reserved) constituency having four voters was under very vulnerable category, Dr Ayyanger said.

Director General of Police K T D Singh here said besides aerial surveillance across all remote places, about hundreds of checkgates along the border of all the 60 constituencies and at strategic points had been installed.

Extensive checking and operation on the ground as well as air surveillance by helicopters were in full swing, Mr Singh added.

Central forces had been pressed into service in all the 2391 polling stations.

There would be massive security bandobast in and around the polling booths as well as on the roads for movement of voters to and fro the polling booths, he said adding there would be no scope for the voters to complain later that he or she was prevented from exercising his or her democratic rights.

Meanwhile, prominent among those, whose fate would be decided, were Chief Minister Manik Sarkar from Dhanpur, former Chief Ministers Sudhir Ranjan Majumder from Bordwali and Samir Ranjan Barman from Bishalgarh.

Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, BJP president Rajnath Singh and senior leader Dr Murali Manohar Joshi, West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, Left Front chairman Biman Bose and Polit Bureau member Brinda Karat fanned out in different parts of the state to woo the electorate for their respective parties.

The CPI (M) had fielded 56 candidates, including Chief Minister Manik Sarkar, while its allies the Communist Party of India (CPI) and the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) had put up two candidates each.

The main Opposition Congress had fielded 48 candidates. The party had allotted eleven seats to its tribal-based ally - the INPT. One seat had been left to the Party for Democratic Socialism (PDS), a local party formed by the breakaway CPI (M) leaders.

The BJP had fielded 49 candidates and allocated eleven seats to its new electoral partner - the United Democratic Front (UDF), a party, formed by disgruntled tribal leaders of different political parties.

The Trinamool Congress, which put up 21 candidates, had entered into an electoral alliance with the Lok Janashakti Party (LJP).

UNI

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