251 aspirants to contest Tripura assembly polls

Agartala, Feb 1 (IANS) A total of 251 candidates, including representatives of 16 political parties and independents, will contest the Feb 14 elections for the 60-member Tripura assembly, officials said here Friday.

Of the 251 contenders, 14 are women and 25 are independents. In the last assembly elections in 2008, 313 candidates, including 18 women, had contested the polls.

"Altogether 296 candidates have filed nominations for the elections. During scrutiny, 30 nominations were rejected due to various reasons and 15 candidates withdrew their candidature," Tripura Chief Electoral Officer Ashutosh Jindal told reporters here.

Thursday was the last date for withdrawing nominations.

Jindal said: "For the first time in Tripura four all-women polling stations will be set up to conduct the elections."

The ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M)-led Left Front and main opposition Congress and its ally Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura (INPT) will field candidates in all the 60 assembly segments, while the Bharatiya Janata Party will field 50 candidates.

Jindal said the poll panel has announced several measures and strategies to hold the assembly elections free, fair and with absolute neutrality.

The panel will form flying-squads led by a magistrate to check illegal arms, distribution of money and other unlawful materials during the polls.

Besides Tripura, two more northeastern states -- Meghalaya and Nagaland -- will go to polls next month (Feb 23).

The commission will also deploy observers in each district of the election-bound states.

"The observers will monitor whether candidates are exceeding stipulated limit of expenditure, violating any model code of conduct and causing any ethnic or law and order problem," the official said.

Over 20,000 polling personnel would be deployed to conduct the elections in 3,018 polling stations in Tripura.

The ECI has transferred six senior civil officials, including a district magistrate and four senior police officials, and barred them from election duties in Tripura.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, her son and party vice-president Rahul Gandhi, chief ministers of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur are among the leaders likely to campaign for the Congress in Tripura.

West Bengal opposition leader Surya Kanta Mishra, CPI-M general secretary Prakash Karat, party's Polit Bureau members Sitaram Yechury, Brinda Karat and Biman Basu and a host of other Left party leaders are also expected to campaign in the state for the Left Front.

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