Agartala, Feb. 1: The cost of conducting the Assembly elections in Tripura this month will be nearly double that incurred in 2008.
Tripura chief electoral officer Ashutosh Jindal told reporters at the press club here this afternoon that the election expenditure, which was Rs 9 crore in 2008, was likely to around Rs 18-20 crore this time.
"Apart from cost escalation, the rise in the number of polling stations from 2,391 in 2008 to 3,041 this time, coupled with the need for deploying more personnel, will add to the expenses," Jindal said.
He said the number of contestants this time had, however, gone down to 249 from 313 in 2008.
"The interesting thing is that at a time when women empowerment is the buzz word, the number of women candidates has come down to only 14 compared to 31 last time. This time, all women have filed nominations from three established parties ' the CPM (5), BJP (5) and the Congress (4)," he said.
Jindal said among the 249 candidates, Satiram Reang, 26, of IPFT and Charendra Reang, 26, an Independent in Karbook Assembly constituency of South Tripura were the youngest candidates, while Nirajay Tripura, 85, of CPM in Chhawmanu constituency of Dhalai district was the oldest.
He said the number of voters per polling station had also been reduced this time ' only 775, compared to 852 in 2008 ' in view of the inordinate delay caused last time by some voters who had problems using electronic voting machines (EVMs).
He said Tripura was one of the very few states in the country to have achieved 100 per cent coverage in terms of electoral photo-identity cards. The entire process of preserving electoral rolls and all poll-related data was also online now, enabling omitted voters to check the status of their applications for inclusion through the Internet on the Election Commission website. "Anyone can see the status of their applications online."
"This time, 53,580 young and new voters will exercise their right to franchise for the first time in an electorate of 23.55 lakh," he said.
Asserting that the polls would be "free and fair", Jindal said adequate number of security personnel would be deployed to provide foolproof security and altogether 30 general observers, 10 expenditure observers and eight police observers would monitor the situation. He said he had received 20 poll-related complaints from parties, and had sent the related investigation reports to the Election Commission, which would take action, if deemed necessary.
Expressing hope that there would high voter turnout on February 14, he said, "In 2008, a 91.32 per cent voters had turned up, in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, the figure was 84.45 per cent. So, we can hope there will be high voter turnout this time also."