Estimated 38 pc polling till noon in Tripura

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Agartala, Feb 23 (UNI) An estimated 38 per cent of the more than 20 lakh electorate exercised their franchise till noon today in the polling for elections to the 60-member Tripura Assembly.

Polling began this morning at 2,391 booths on a sluggish note but as the day progressed, it picked up briskly.

Heavy security was in place to ensure free and fair polls. About 43,000 security personnel, including 20,000 that of Central Paramilitary Forces, have been deployed in the northeastern state.

Four helicopters were maintaining air surveillance to foil any disruptive activities.

The voting was slow in the morning as it was very cold but as the day progressed, enthusiastic people turned up in huge numbers at the polling booths forcing the authorities to cordon areas of the polling station for 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.

''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,'' Dr Ayyangar added.

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

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 the state capital witnessed long queues.

Polling in rural areas was comparatively higher 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 related series.

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