Agartala: Re-election in one polling booth each at six Assembly constituencies in Tripura saw a voter turnout of 90.58 percent on Monday, according to the Tripura Election Commission.
After extensive scrutiny of reports supplied by the state election office, the Election Commission of India (ECI) had ordered re-polling at six polling centres, owing to malfunctioning of EVMs and VVPATs during the 18 February election to 59 constituencies of the Tripura Assembly.
The poll at Charilam constituency was countermanded after the demise of CPM candidate Ramendra Narayan Debbarma on 11 February. Polling on this tribal reserved seat is slated for 12 March.
Polling at one polling centre each in Dhanpur, Sonamura, Teliamura, Sabroom, Ampinagar and Kadamtala Kurti Assembly constituencies went peacefully. "There was no report of violence or untoward incident from anywhere," superintendent of police (Operation) Pradip Dey informed.
CPM seeks to shift of counting centre
CPM, which had initially lashed out at the EC after the 18 February election and complained of foul play in the decision to hold re-election in six polling centres, had no critical comment to make on Monday. Rather, the party congratulated people through a statement for turning out in large numbers for the re-poll exercise despite facing troubles. It also hoped the EC would ensure a peaceful and snag-free counting. Counting for Tripura, along with two neighbouring poll-bound states Meghalaya and Nagaland will be taken up on 3 March.
"We are, however, firm with our demand to shift the counting centres for Takarjala and Golaghati Assembly constituencies. The situation in Jampuijala sub-division is hardly conducive to conduct trouble-free counting," CPM state secretary Bijan Dhar said.
CPM earlier blamed IPFT (Indigenous People's Front of Tripura), an electoral ally of the BJP, for 'unleashing terror' at Jampuijala in Sepahijala district. IPFT president Narendra Chandra Debbarma is contesting from Takarjala (ST) constituency.
Dhar added that the party will "cooperate with the EC, even if it does not shift the counting centre from Takarjala", but "we just want entire election exercise to be conducted fairly". Dhar said he is confident the CPM-led Left Front government will rule the state for the eighth time.
IPFT denied allegations of attack, threat and intimidation on rivals, and counter-blamed the Left cadres for 'fuelling tension'. "The allegations of CPM are baseless and politically motivated," IPFT chief Debbarma said.
Voting 'fair' under Sarkar's watch
On Monday, voting started at 7 am amid tight security manned by paramilitary forces. No EVM or VVPAT malfunction was reported. The six polling centres with total 5,600 electors that went to re-poll on Monday included Telkajla HS School in Dhanpur, which is currently held by CPM veteran and Chief Minister Manik Sarkar. The polling centre has 1,088 voters.
Sarkar has won the constituency consecutively since 1998, and another victory would ensure his fifth term in state Assembly. Unlike previous elections, the chief minister campaigned extensively on home turf, as top BJP leaders spent time across the state to give him a tough fight.
Apart from Sarkar, BJP's Pratima Bhoumik, INC's Laxmi Nag (Barman), and AITC's Jahir Uddin are contesting Dhanpur.
Ruling CPM's tallest leader in Tripura stood for hours at a distance overseeing the re-election centre at Dhanpur on Monday. Sarkar had also visited the area on Saturday to make a last-minute appeal to the voters.
"I can see election is taking place properly," Sarkar told journalists in a brief retort at Dhanpur.
Bhoumik, who flanked the chief minister for a while, concurred with Sarkar's observation. The BJP state general secretary appears to be Sarkar's main contender at Dhanpur, which has a mixed population of Tribals, Hindus and Muslims.
State BJP president Biplab Kumar Deb, too, campaigned in the constituency on Saturday to lure electors for Bhoumik.
Targeting the CPM for 'orchestrating violence in some areas before they face an imminent defeat', Deb called on Left cadres to help maintain peace in the state.
When questioned about Monday's re-election, BJP's state media coordinator Victor Som not only claimed that BJP has already won but said they have only gained in re-poll.
"We have already won… the votes in re-poll have augmented our victory margin," Som said.
The author is an Imphal-based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters.
Updated Date: Feb 27, 2018 12:13 PM