Agartala, Feb 23 (UNI) A festive mood prevailed across Tripura as people today thronged polling stations to decide the fate of 313 contestants aspiring to enter the 60-member Assembly.
Flags and banners of the two major contenders--ruling Left Front and Opposition Congress--covered the ceilings of polling stations in interior parts of Tripura today.
Even though the Election Commission of India (ECI) had imposed strict restrictions on canvassing by political parties after campaigning ended on February 21, the posters and banners clearly reflected the spirit of the day.
Fulkurmari Debbarma, a 78-year-old tribal woman in remote Tuipathar locality of Mandai, about 40 km from here, said she had exercised her franchise with the future of the entire country in mind.
The morning saw a flood of voters, forcing organisers to cordon off areas of the polling station to those who had already cast their ballots, following an intervention by the election observers and para-military personnel.
However, from early on, polling began in a relaxed atmosphere with voters and candidates interacting with and congratulating each other for participating in the historic occasion.
After 1100 hours, voting slowed down considerably, but the almost-festive mood continued, with a number of contestants opting to bring their families along. Some nominees even brought along their children to witness the entire voting process. Friends and supporters of many of the candidates also crowded the area near the polling stations.
The excitement was palpable as voters streamed into the polling stations with the candidates of both the major parties - Monoranjan Debbarma (CPM) and Jagadish Debbarma (INPT) - urging the voters to turn out in strong numbers to exercise their franchise, particularly in the Mandai constituency.
In another part of Agartala - Majlishpur - the atmosphere was distinctly cheerful. Large cutouts of the leaders framed the narrow streets amid a sea of party flags of both the Congress and CPI(M).
Young men paraded up and down the streets on motorcycles, with red scarves, flashing victory signs - ''It's looking good,'' one of them yelled, ''we are coming back.'' The mood in the capital city was also upbeat, with people paying scant heed to reports of tension and apprehension of violence.
People were so enthusiastic that they had made it a point, despite their busy schedules amid the marriage season, to cast their votes at the respective polling stations, all decked up in traditional wedding finery.
UNI BB DPM PL RD 1218