The ruling CPI(M) is facing a tough challenge to retain Tripura from the BJP, which till the last election was a political underdog. BJP leaders vouch there is a strong anti-Manik Sarkar wave sweeping across the state besides the ‘Modi magic’ casting spell on voters.
Voting for 59 seats in the 60-seat assembly began at 7 am. Polling in Charilam seat has been postponed to March 12 after the death of CPI(M) candidate Ramendra Narayan Debbarma.
BJP leaders allege that the CPI(M) cadres had unleashed violence in some polling booths to prevent voters from casting their votes. Incidents of violence have been reported from Bagbasa, Manu and Dhalai. Voter turnout stood at 45.9 per cent till 1 pm, election officials said. In many polling booths, EVM machines malfunctioned leading to delay in the poll process. There were also unconfirmed reports about booth capturing. In many places, they are preventing BJP workers from manning party counters at polling booths. “The CPM cadres are out with their usual tactics – intimidating voters, mounting pressure on security forces. Some polling officials are also working hand in glove with CPM leaders,” said Shivanand Nadkarni, associated with BJP. “This time we are also giving it back. There is unprecedented enthusiasm among people to vote out CPM,” he added.
According to Sunil Deodhar, BJP’s Tripura in-charge, the CPM with the help of some sympathetic poll officials delays election processes so that they could indulge in rigging once it’s dark. “If you analyze, their polling percentage shoots up between 3 pm and 4 pm. It usually touches up to 93 per cent during this period. This time we are alert. Even the Election Commission has also been apprised about this. They want to delay the process,” said Deodhar.
It has also found that CPM “imports voters from Bangladesh” who after voting return to their home country. Many Bangladeshis have obtained voting and Aadhar cards in the state.
However, by appointing a Special Observer, the Election Commission has upset the CPM plans. Upset over this, a delegation comprising of CPI(M) Polit Bureau members S Ramachandran Pillai and Brinda Karat met the Chief Election Commissioner OP Rawat on Saturday “for expressing concerns over the appointment of Special Observer in Tripura”. It’s learnt that a CPM delegation will again meet senior poll officials today.