Voting for Lok Sabha polls begins in Tripura

Agartala, April 23 (Inditop) Polling for the two Lok Sabha seats in Tripura began Thursday morning amid tight security and air surveillances by military helicopters, officials said.

“To avoid the scorching summer heat, people in large numbers queued up in front of polling stations well before voting opened at 7 a.m. Voting ends at 4 p.m,” said Sanjeev Ranjan, the chief electoral officer.

Over 2.08 million voters, including 1.01 million women, will decide the fate of 19 contestants, including a woman.

Bordering Bangladesh, in the left ruled Tripura, the fight is expected to be a triangular contest between the ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) led Left Front, the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Trinamool Congress state chairman and senior lawyer Arun Chandra Bhowmik is contesting from the Tripura West Lok Sabha constituency while the party’s vice-president Rita Rani Debbarma is fighting from the Tripura East seat reserved for tribals.

The CPI-M and the BJP have renominated their 2004 Lok Sabha candidates for both seats.

Sitting MPs Khagen Das and Bajuban Reang, both CPI-M central committee members who won in 2004, are again contesting from Tripura West and Tripura East seats respectively against Congress’ Sudip Roy Barman, a sitting legislator, and Diba Chandra Hrangkhawl, a former legislator.

Tripura BJP president Nilmani Deb is fighting from Tripura West while the party’s veteran tribal leader Pulin Behari Dewan is the candidate from Tripura East.

“Over 30,000 central paramilitary troopers accompanied by state security forces have took positions across the state Wednesday to deal with separatist outfits before and during the polling,” Pranay Sahay, director general of police, told reporters.

“Two defence helicopters with senior officials and paramilitary troopers are maintaining a eagle-eyed vigil on the situation,” he added.

Sahay said the air surveillances would continue till Friday.

The police chief said though the tribal guerrillas had not resorted to violence in the recent past, security measures had been tightened to meet any kind of eventuality.

“More than 30 QRTs (quick reaction teams) have been ready in different parts of the state to rush anywhere to deal with any untoward incident,” the police chief said.

Six central observers, 266 magistrates and 300 micro-observes have been appointed to oversee the poll process and ensure free and fair elections, said Ranjan.

About 20,000 poll officials escorted by security forces have been manning 3,008 polling stations across the state, the poll official said.

Besides sealing the India-Bangladesh international border, night curfew has been imposed along the 856 km long territory with Bangladesh, Ranjan said.