Voting begins for Tripura assembly elections

Agartala, Feb 14 (IANS) Voting for the Tripura assembly elections began Thursday amidst tight security, an official said.

Men and women in large numbers queued up in front of polling stations well before voting opened at 7 a.m. in the entire state. Polling ends at 4 p.m., said chief electoral officer Ashutosh Jindal.

In all, 23,55,446 people, about half of them women, are eligible to exercise their franchise to decide the fate of 249 candidates, including 15 women and many independents.

"Apprehending trouble by separatist outfits and possible violence, a record 40,000 paramilitary and other security personnel have been deployed, while two air surveillance teams led by senior police officials are conducting air surveillance," the election official told IANS.

"The Election Commission has deployed specially modified electronic voting machines in all the 3,041 polling stations across the state to check possible malpractice and other irregularities," he added.

About 18,000 poll officials, including four teams of polling personnel comprising all women, have been posted to conduct the elections.

The Election Commission has also appointed over 2,000 micro-observers to assist 48 general, expenditure and police observers to oversee electioneering.

Thursday's vote would decide the fate of Chief Minister Manik Sarkar, his 11 cabinet colleagues, former chief minister and senior Congress leader Samir Ranjan Burman, his son and state Congress president Sudip Roy Barman, opposition leader Ratan Lal Nath, Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura (INPT) president and former militant leader Bijoy Kumar Hrangkhawl among others.

After a month-long campaign for the polls, the ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) led Left Front is locked in a direct fight against the three-party opposition alliance led by Congress.

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