68 per cent turnout in Tripura till 1500 hrs

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Agartala, Feb 23 (UNI) About 68 per cent of the over 20 lakh electorate cast their votes till 1500 hrs today as polling progressed peacefully for the 60-member Tripura Assembly.

Official sources said except the kidnapping of a Left Front leader in Raimavelly of Dhalai district last night, there was no report any poll related violence so far.

Chief Electoral Officer Dr G S G Ayyangar said a huge number of voters had queued before polling stations in almost all the constituencies as the last hour approached. Voting time might be extended, he said.

''I have already told all the Returning Officers that no voter should be turned away if they enter the polling booths before 1600 hrs,'' he told UNI.

He said as per reports he had, polling would continued till 2000 to21 hrs in most of the constituencies.

Expressing satisfaction over the poll arrangements, he said reports indicated that the voter turn-out would be more than 80 per cent this time.

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

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

The ruling CPI(M)-led Left Front is locked in a direct fight with opposition Congress-Indigenous Party of Tripura alliance.

The CPI(M) alone has put up 56 candidates, while its two allies, RSP and CPI, would contest two seats each.

The Congress is in the fray in 47 seats and its two allies--INPT and PDS--would fight it out in 11 and two seats respectively.

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.

EDS:Here pick up suitably from earlier series.

UNI BB PL VD AS1621

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