Agartala: Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar, who was among the early voters to cast his vote here on Thursday, said the Left Front is going to get more seats with more percentage of votes it actually garnered during the last assembly elections.
Sarkar, who has served as the Chief Minister of Tripura since March 1998, said there is no tension at all.
"It's a festive mood. I am also a participant of this festival. So, there is no tension. Left Front is going to get more seats with more percentage of votes it actually garnered during the last assembly elections," said Sarkar.
"It doesn't matter. You see during this period so many people actually deserted our opposition camp. They joined to us and thereby we are very very hopeful that we are going to cross the last years margin," he added, when asked that there are 22 seats where the margin of votes was less than 1,000 in 2008.
The CPI (M)-led Left Front pulled off an emphatic victory for a fourth consecutive term, winning 49 seats in the 60-member legislature in the 2008 assembly polls.
Election to the 60-member Tripura assembly began at 7 a.m. today amidst tight security.
Voters were seen queuing up long before the voting began. An electorate of 23,52,505, including 11,64,656 women, will decide the electoral fate of 249 candidates.
Prominent candidates in the fray apart from the Chief Minister are Finance Minister Badal Chowdhury, Higher Education Minister Anil Sarkar, former Chief Minister Samir Ranjan Burman and TPCC President Sudip Ray Barman.
The main contest here is between the Left Front and its allies, and the Congress and its partners.
The CPI (M), the dominant partner in the Left Front, is contesting in 56 seats. The RSP will battle it out in two seats, and the CPI and Forward Block are contesting in one seat each.
The Congress is contesting in 48 seats and its alliance partners INPT in 11 and National Conference of Tripura in one.
Of the 3,041 booths, 409 have been identified as very sensitive, 535 booths as very sensitive and 726 booths as sensitive.
Additional security arrangements have been put in place to avoid any untoward incident during the voting process. Altogether 250 companies of central paramilitary forces have been deployed to maintain law and order.
The BSF has sealed the 856 km-long border with Bangladesh and deployed additional forces to prevent infiltration.
The Election Commission has formed flying squads and Static Surveillance Teams to combat the menace of cash doles and bribes and carrying of illegal arms.
In the last five years, in the three elections that the state has seen, the polling percentage was more than 90 percent. Tripura has a tradition of high turnout and it is expected that the voting will pick up as the day progresses.
Tripura has been under the Left Front rule for two decades now and if it wins this time, it will be its fifth straight term in power.
Voters queued up in large numbers outside polling booths in Tripura from early morning Thursday, officials said.
"Polling began at 7 a.m. with men and women queuing up in large numbers to cast their votes in 60 assembly constituencies," said Ashutosh Jindal, chief electoral officer.
"I expect a huge turnout by the time polling ends at 4 p.m. Tripura recorded 93 percent polling in the last assembly elections in 2008," Jindal said.
More than 30 per cent votes had been cast by 10 a.m., he said. The tempo was expected to increase as the day progressed.
New voters and women appeared the most enthusiastic.
Of the total population of 37 lakh, about 23.5 lakh are eligible to exercise their franchise to decide the fate of 249 candidates, including 15 women and many independents.
Trouble with EVMs
In a few polling stations, trouble with electronic voting machines (EVM) led to voting being stopped for a while.
"In the wake of threats from separatists and possible violence, a record 40,000 security personnel have been deployed while two air surveillance teams led by senior police officials are also keeping vigil," the election official said.
After casting his vote at a school here, Chief Minister Manik Sarkar said: "The Left Front would get more votes and more seats this time too."
"There is absolutely no impact of 'paribartan' (change) slogan, raised by the Congress, here. The Left Front will won the elections comfortably in most seats," Sarkar told reporters here before leaving for his Dhanpur assembly constituency in western Tripura under Sipahijala district.
Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) spokesperson Gautam Das said: "We are happy with the casting of votes. Polling so far is peaceful."
The Congress has accused the CPI-M of illegally gathering party supporters in two to three polling station areas.
"Some general voters were being marked to cast their votes through postal ballots. We have informed the election officer about this," said Ashok Sinha, Congress spokesperson.
"The Election Commission has deployed specially modified EVMs in all the 3,041 polling stations across the state to check possible malpractice and other irregularities," he added.
About 18,000 poll officials have been deployed to conduct the elections.
Of the 3,041 polling stations, 32 have been categorised as very vulnerable and 112 as vulnerable in view of militancy and other security related problems.
The Election Commission has appointed over 2,000 micro observers to assist 48 general, expenditure and police observers to oversee electioneering.
Thursday's vote will decide the fate of the chief minister, his 11 cabinet colleagues, former chief minister and veteran Congress leader Samir Ranjan Burman his son and state Congress chief Sudip Roy Barman, opposition leader (Congress) Ratan Lal Nath, Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura (INPT) president and former militant leader Bijoy Kumar Hrangkhawl and a host of others.
After a month-long high-voltage campaign, the ruling CPI-M led Left Front is locked in a direct fight against the opposition combine of the Congress and the INPT.