Candidates find novel ways to woo voters in Tripura

Agartala, Feb 10 (IANS) Patriotic folk and modern songs, street plays, rhymes, poems and colourful decorations using small trees were the highlights in the run-up to the Feb 14 assembly elections in Tripura.

"It's a tradition in Tripura. Patriotic, folk and modern songs, street plays, rhymes and poems being used as a vital campaign module in the electoral battles," political analyst Sekhar Datta told IANS.

Both the ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) and the main opposition Congress have organised poll campaigns using colourfully decorated vehicles draped with party flags and festoons.

Vehicles with loudspeakers have been playing songs and electoral promises in localities to woo the electorates.

Tripura Sanskriti Samannay Kendra, the literary and cultural front of the CPI-M, composed modern and folk songs criticising the Congress' failure across the country and its alliance with the tribal-based Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura (INPT).

In contrast, the Congress is trying to pursue voters using old patriotic songs of Lata Mangeshkar and other renowned singers.

Animatronics in local television channels criticising rival political parties' is a new feature in this election in Tripura, where one third of the 3.7 million population comprises tribals.

"Our campaign with the versatile cultural performance has largely impacted the minds of the people and we have won the hearts of voters by using cultural presentations," said state Information and Cultural Minister Anil Sarkar.

Sarkar, who is also a poet and writer, is seeking re-election to the assembly as a CPI(M) nominee from Pratapgarh constituency, reserved for the scheduled caste, in west Tripura for a record ninth time.

The 75-year-old teacher-turned politician has composed several folk songs and rhymes to connect with people.

All the party booth offices of the Congress in the state are playing Bankim Chandra's 'Vande Mataram' song.

State leader of the opposition (Congress) Ratan Lal Nath said: "We believe in true patriotism and that's why our party is using patriotic songs during the poll campaign."

Nath, 65, successfully contesting from Mohanpur assembly since 1993, said: "We want a new political culture that would stir the mindset of young people to join politics."

The Tripura Prevention of Defacement of Property (Amendment) Act, 1998, is now in force. Also, the Election Commission has asked political parties not to use any static assets, buildings and government properties for their poll campaigns. Hence, candidates have put up a large number of party flags on small trees, bamboo groves and banana plants by the roadside.

Political analyst Datta said : "In the campaign 'pranaam' (touch an elder's feet in obeisance) is also a habitual style of politics popularised by Congress candidates, especially former minister Surajit Datta. The 'pranam' politics has now been adopted by the Left parties' candidates to woo elderly voters."

Lanes and by-lanes are also decked with flags of Left parties, Congress, BJP and others.

"Poll fever has gripped the entire state even as the official machinery and security forces are busy ensuring the elections are held in a free and fair manner," Chief Electoral Officer Ashutosh Jindal said.

A total of 249 candidates, including 14 women and many independents, are testing their electoral fortunes in next week's election to the 60-seat Tripura assembly.

In the 2008 assembly polls, 313 candidates, including 31 women, had contested.

Two 26-year-olds are the youngest contenders, both independents, while 85-year-old CPI-M leader Nirajoy Tripura and Upendra Reang of the BJP are the two oldest candidates.

(Sujit Chakraborty can be contacted at sujit.c@ians.in)

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