38% Voter turnout till noon in Tripura

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Agartala, Feb 23 (UNI) Braving morning chill an estimated 38 per cent of the electorate voted till noon today to decide the fate of 313 candidates aspiring to enter the 60-member Tripura Assembly.

Polling began peacefully but on a sluggish note in all the 2,391 polling booths amid tight security.

But as the day progressed voters in large numbers thronged booths forcing the authorities to cordon off areas of the polling station to those who had already cast their ballots, following intervention by the election observers and para-military personnel.

''There was no report of threat or intimidation from any political party except kidnapping a Left Front leader in Raimavelly of Dhalai district last night,'' Chief Electoral Officer Dr G S G Ayyangar told newspersons.

However, Congress leaders alleged that despite sufficeint para-military personnel some ruling LF supporters were moving across trying to influence voters in their favour.

About 43,000 security personnel, including 20,000 Central Paramilitary Forces, have been deployed to ensure free and fair polls. Four helicopters were maintaining air surveillance to foil attempts to disrupt the election process.

''The single phase polling got off to a slow start with the winter chill proving a dampener to early voting but it increased after 0900 hours,'' Chief Electoral Officer Dr G S G Ayyangar said.

Prominent among those who voted till noon was Chief Minister Manik Sarkar who cast his ballot in the Shishu Bihar Higher Secondary School.

Most polling booths in and around Agartala witnessed long queues.

Polling in rural areas was comparatively more brisk than the urban areas, Dr Ayyangar said.

The electoral fortunes of 313 candidates, including 31 women and 64 Independents, would be decided by the 20,35,877 electorate. The aspirants include Chief Minister Manik Sarkar and his ten Cabinet colleagues and senior Congress leaders and former Chief Ministers Samir Ranjan Barman and Sudhir Ranjan Majumdar.

Two other important figures from the Congress alliance are Maharani Bibhukumari Devi and militant-turned-legislator Bijoy Kumar Harangkhwal.

EDS:Here pick up suitably from earlier series.

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