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Tripura election 2018 sees 46% polling; EVM issues fixed: Top 10 highlights

BJP is battling tooth and nail to oust the Left Front government led by four-time Chief Minister Manik Sarkar

Agencies  |  New Delhi 

tripura election 2018
CM Manik Sarkar casting his vote. Photo: ANI

As of 1 pm on Sunday morning, voter turnout of 45.86% per cent was registered. Incumbent Chief Minister Manik Sarkar has reportedly cast his vote at a polling booth in Agartala.

Meanwhile, Tripura Chief Electoral Officer Sriram Taranikanti, said that polling has been going on smoothly as of now.

"It is going on smoothly. We hope the momentum carries on. There was a couple of issues in EVMs in the morning. Our team has resolved the issue. We will be able to complete polling before the stipulated time," he said.

The BJP and CPI-M are duking it out as polling in the Tripura Assembly election 2018 started on Sunday morning. Voting for the 59 out of 60 seats will be held at 3,214 polling stations. Polling in the Charilam constituency has been deferred due to the death of CPM candidate Ramendra Narayan Debbarma. It will be held on March 12. In all, 2,536,589 people, including 1,250,128 women and 47,803 first-time voters, are eligible to exercise their franchise to decide the fate of 292 candidates, including 23 women and many independents. According to reports, voters have indicated that development will be a major electoral agenda in these polls. Voters in Tripura's Udaipur are waiting for a government that can help spur holistic development in the state. "We want a government thaunderstands for development in the state, and understand our problems and requirements," a voter told ANI.
Another requirement put forth by citizens was an improvement in infrastructure, connectivity, and electricity for all. "Men and women in large numbers queued up in front of many polling stations well before polling opened at 7 am in the entire state.

Polling ends at 4 pm," said Sriram Taranikanti, the Chief Electoral Officer. "Apprehending troubles by some tribal outfit, a record 50,000 para-military, and other state security personnel have been deployed while two air surveillance team led by senior officials are conducting surveillance by helicopters," added the election official. First face-off The (CPI-M) is confident of retaining power in its bastion of Tripura in Sunday's Assembly elections and achieving a turnaround in the Left movement across the country, though the (BJP) is battling tooth and nail to oust the Left Front government led by four-time Chief Minister Manik Sarkar. ALSO READ: Tripura elections 2018: Modi says CPM ruined Tripura - Here's a fact check In India's 65-year-long electoral history, the country's dominant Left party, the CPI-M, has never been in direct confrontation with the BJP. However, political developments in Tripura in 2016 and 2017 have set the stage for their first face-to-face battle as the saffron outfit has emerged as the key Opposition party in this Communist-ruled northeastern state. Here are top 10 developments: 1. Hours before Sunday's assembly elections in Left-ruled Tripura, the Election Commission has appointed a Special Observer while the authorities have sealed the international and inter-state borders with Tripura. Tripura Chief Electoral Officer Sriram Taranikanti said that the Election Commission has appointed Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) Director General R K Pachnanda as Special Observer to oversee the polling process in Tripura. Pachnanda, an IPS officer of the 1983 batch West Bengal cadre, was the Kolkata Police Commissioner. 2. The BJP, which previously fought elections alone, has aligned with the tribal-based party Indigenous People's Front of Tripura (IPFT) for Sunday's election. The BJP is contesting 51 seats and has left nine seats for ally IPFT. The IPFT has since 2009 been agitating for a separate state containing Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council. The separate state demand has been rejected by all political parties. The BJP, which has never won an assembly seat in Tripura so far and secured a mere 1.54 per cent votes in 2013, is very confident of getting a reasonable number of vote share and seats in the elections. ALSO READ: BJP key threat to Left's 25-year rule as Tripura goes to polls tomorrow 3. The CPI(M) on Sunday dubbed "unusual" the appointment of a special observer for the Assembly election in Tripura and objected to his closed-door meeting with the state BJP president. A CPI(M) delegation met Chief Election Commissioner O P Rawat and expressed concerns over the appointment of the special observer. The CPI(M) said the appointment "seems an unusual step". "There have been reports of his closed-door meeting with the state BJP president in the chamber of Chief Electoral Officer, Tripura, which has created confusion among the people," the CPI(M) alleged. A CPI(M) statement read: "The CEC said he will ask for a written report on the circumstances in which the special observer met the BJP president of Tripura." 4. Tripura Police Chief Akhil Kumar Shukla said with the deployment of additional Border Security Force troopers, the 856-km India-Bangladesh border with Tripura has been sealed to prevent any intruder from across the borders. "We have requested the Assam and Mizoram Police to tighten the vigil along the inter-state borders. We have also deployed additional security force along Tripura's borders with Assam and Mizoram to foil any unauthorised entry into the state during the electioneering," Shukla told the media. Tripura shares 109 km borders with Mizoram and 53 km borders with Assam. The police chief said that closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras were also installed in the entry points of Tripura's inter-state borders with Assam and Tripura and some other strategic locations to closely monitor the situations. 5. Assam Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who is the BJP's Tripura election in-charge, claimed that Tripura would be the BJP's 20th state. "Opposition parties always depend on the anti-incumbency sentiment of voters... No leader in the state party can even remotely approximate the stature and status of Chief Minister Manik Sarkar," political analyst Rameswar Bhattacharjee said. CPI-M General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, referring to the BJP's campaign, told IANS: "The BJP would be stopped in Tripura in its continuing (string of) election victories in the country and this would be its Waterloo." "The BJP formed governments in Manipur and Goa (earlier last year) by using money power and illegal means. They have used all methods to win in Tripura as they have declared that Left-ruled states, including Kerala, are their main targets," Yechury said.

6. Tripura Police on Friday night asked Assam Minister of State for Power Pallab Lochan Das back to go back to his state from Gandacherra in Dhalai district for violating election code of conduct that bars an outsider from staying in an election-bound state after the end of campaigning. Dhalai district police Chief Smriti Ranjan Das said: "The minister along with a BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) leader was found at a tribal village in Gandachara area even after campaigning came to an end at 4 pm on Friday. We escorted him back from the area and asked him to go back to Assam." The ruling (CPI-M) also lodged a fresh complaint before the Election Commission on suspicious movement of an Assam Minister with "fake car permit". ALSO READ: Meet Sunil Deodhar, the man who changed the BJP's fate in Tripura 7. The ruling CPI-M has fielded 57 candidates, leaving one seat each to its Left Front partners -- the Communist Party of India, Forward Bloc, and Revolutionary Socialist Party. 8. All the top leaders of CPI-M, BJP, and Trinamool participated in the hectic two-month long poll campaign that ended on Friday afternoon. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP President Amit Shah, and party's General Secretary in-charge of northeastern states Ram Madhav, the Chief Ministers of five BJP-ruled states, CPI-M General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, many party politburo members including Prakash Karat, Brinda Karat, Biman Bose, addressed a record number of election rallies since December. Hours before the end of the campaign, President and other central leaders boosted the campaign of the party, which has been hit by large numbers of top state party leaders, seven MLAs and a huge number of workers joining the BJP since last year. 9. The Election Commission has appointed 25 general observers, eight police observers and 19 expenditure observers to oversee the poll process. Over 30,000 civil officials would be engaged in the conduct of the elections. The poll panel, on the request of the state government, has also deployed more than 30,000 additional central para-military forces. ALSO READ: Tripura elections 2018: Modi says Cong, CPI-M have secret pact - 10 points 10. The CPI-M had earlier made several complained to the poll panel that thousands of BJP and RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) workers of several other states have been staying in hotels, lodges, rented houses and BJP leaders' homes "ostensibly to create troubles on the day of polling". On Friday night, police also detained three RSS workers from Damdamia Bazar of Simna assembly constituency in West Tripura district with a vehicle moving in the areas after the end of the campaign. When asked about the outsiders, the Chief Electoral Officer and Director General of Police separately said that the authorities already asked the unauthorised outsiders to leave the state even as the police are conducting searches in all possible locations to identify the unauthorised outsiders and to deport them from the state.

First Published: Sun, February 18 2018. 15:08 IST