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Tripura Assembly bypolls: Voter turnout at 89.20% at Boxanagar and 83.92 at Dhanpur as Oppn alleges violence

A 89.20 per cent voter turnout was recorded at the Boxanagar Assembly constituency and at the Dhanpur seat it was reported to be at 83.92 per cent until 5 pm Tuesday amid Opposition allegations of violence and fake voting during the by-elections being held in Tripura’s Sepahijala district.

However, according to officials at the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO)’s office, voting was underway peacefully at different polling stations of the Boxanagar constituency.

Meanwhile, later in the evening, the opposition CPI(M) termed the entire bypoll process to have been “reduced to a complete mockery” and wrote to the ECI seeking to revoke the entire byelection and conduct fresh polls at both Dhanpur and Boxanagar assembly constituencies.

BJP candidate at the Dhanpur constituency Bindu Debnath had also refuted allegations of violence by the Opposition CPI(M) and Congress and said electors have come out wholeheartedly in favour of the Bharatiya Janata Party over the issue of peace and development.

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Debnath, who is a first-time contestant, also said the dream of a separate state spread by TIPRA Motha party in the Assembly elections earlier this year has fallen flat and tribals have realised they need to rally with BJP for development.

Tripura Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) shut down and bagged at a polling center at the end of poll hours in Boxanagar constituency. (Express photo/Debraj Deb)

The CPI(M) candidate at the Dhanpur seat Kaushik Chanda, who is a childhood friend of his BJP opponent, said he has been travelling throughout the constituency and alleged false voting is taking place in several polling booths, opposition supporters are being threatened by hooligans against turning up at the polling centres.

He also said central security forces who are deployed at polling stations have maintained peace but hundreds of outsiders are allegedly threatening electors, assaulting Left leaders, and a section of state police personnel.

He also expressed concerns about “chappa vote” or fake voting in different parts of his constituency and said complaints have been lodged about the issue with the Election Commission of India. He also said if purported fake voting continues unabated, the Left might end up losing the bypoll.

tripura bypolls BJP candidate at Dhanpur seat Bindu Debnath. (Express Photo)

District Electoral Officer and Sepahijala District Magistrate Vishal Kumar said the polling rate has been good and is underway in a peaceful manner.

On the allegations of violence, Kumar said, “We have not heard of any incident of violence till now. I have got information regarding an incident at Boxanagar where one person sustained minor injuries”.

“Regarding polling agents not turning up at polling centres, we requested the opposition CPIM to provide names of polling agents. They didn’t give us any names and the names given to us were escorted to the polling booths,” he added.

He also said he is “happy” with the bypoll process and said he is expecting at least an 85 per cent voter turnout going by the trend. “People have turned up despite the hot summer. We have got reports of an incident from Taibandal village but we are yet to get all the details,” he said.

At the Shantinagar assembly constituency in Dhanpur, voters were seen standing in long queues and coming out of polling booths after casting their votes. They said the process has been going smoothly.

dhanpur bypolls today CPI(M) candidate at Dhanpur seat Kaushik Chanda. (Express Photo)

Many electors, especially women like Abu Bala Bhowmik, 45, and Sukanya Bhowmik, 24, said they want peace from whoever wins the elections.

Elderly voters like 80-year-old Jyotibala Paul were seen at polling stations, often with the help of an aide, to cast their votes instead of voting from the comfort of their homes.

“I can walk with my stick. I’ve got my Krishna here (pointing at her aide). I have no problem in coming to vote”, the octogenarian said.

‘Hooliganism, farce’

Earlier in the day, presiding officers at centres where this correspondent visited said the polling process was peaceful and there was no report of any untoward incident. However, the Opposition CPI(M) alleged its polling agents could not perform their duties at some polling stations due to hooliganism.

Tripura Congress president Ashish Kumar Saha alleged Opposition supporters and leaders had been intimidated since last night to vote in favour of the incumbent BJP.

Saha also claimed voters were prevented from turning up at polling centres in some places and many among those who turned up were being forced by local BJP leaders to vote in favour of the saffron party. “Public mandate is not being reflected in this by-election. It has been reduced to a farce,” he said.

Slight delay

Speaking to indianexpress.com earlier in the day, Alamgir Hossain, 72, said voting at Durgapur High School in the Boxanagar constituency was delayed by around 30 minutes, adding he was among the first ones to vote.

“Voting started at 7.30 am. Setting up EVMs took some time. It’s good that elections are happening again. There is sufficient security, many people came out to cast their mandate in large numbers,” said Hossain.

A homemaker Mariam Begum, 29, said she cast her vote peacefully and was happy at the arrangements made for women at the polling centre.

Several senior citizens were also seen coming to polling centres. Abdul Rashid, 80, said he could have voted from home but he wanted to come and cast his vote with everyone else.

“I have no problem voting here. I came with my stick,” said Rashid and added that there was no problem in the area relating to the poll process so far.

BJP vs CPM

The bypolls were necessitated after the death of CPI(M) MLA Samsul Haque, who was elected from the Boxanagar constituency, and the resignation of Union Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment Pratima Bhoumik, who contested and won with a BJP ticket from Dhanpur.

tripura bypolls today As many as 93,234 voters are eligible to exercise their franchise in the polls — 43,087 in Boxanagar and 50,147 in Dhanpur. (Express Photo)

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and Opposition CPI(M) are the only major players in the field this time with both Congress and TIPRA Motha, which is the main Opposition party in the Tripura Assembly, choosing to sit out.

Though Congress and Motha haven’t fielded any candidates, they haven’t officially supported the Left candidates, even though the parties have said they are not in favour of the BJP. Congress has appealed to its voters to cast a mandate in favour of the INDIA alliance of which CPI(M) is a member while Motha urged its supporters to do “conscience voting”.

Sepahijala district, which has a population of around 5.42 lakh people in an area of 1043.04 sq. km, is located just beside the India-Bangla international border and several parts of the two bypoll-bound constituencies have bordering villages.

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As many as 93,234 voters are eligible to exercise their franchise in the polls—43,087 in Boxanagar and 50,147 in Dhanpur. The electorate includes 160 service voters and 1,217 citizens aged above 80, who can vote from their homes by using postal ballots.

Security arrangements

Tripura Chief Electoral Officer Puneet Agrawal had said earlier the law and order situation was assessed with help from the police, the Border Security Force (BSF), and other agencies to identify sensitive areas and that central forces will be deployed at polling booths.

Out of the 59 polling stations at Dhanpur, 9 have been identified as ‘critical’ and 19 others were marked ‘vulnerable’ based on previous years’ records. In Boxanagar, which has 51 polling stations, nine have been marked ‘critical’ and 15 others ‘vulnerable’.

Though vulnerability details of the polling stations were not made public, Agrawal had said prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) were issued in some areas and steps were taken to prevent infiltration and unauthorised entry of people from Bangladesh, with which the state shares an 856-km border on three sides.

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Though vulnerability details of the polling stations were not made public, Agrawal had said prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) were issued in some areas and steps were taken to prevent infiltration and unauthorised entry of people from Bangladesh, with which the state shares an 856-km border on three sides.

tripura bypolls Tight security mulled in polling stations. (Express Photo)

Meanwhile, the Commission has deployed Central Armed Police Force (CAPF) personnel for area domination and security management. Central forces were also deployed to stand guard at all polling stations during voting as well.

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As many as 15 companies of CAPF were deployed for the bypoll process and regular area domination. They are also conducting patrolling to prevent untoward incidents and instil confidence among voters, according to officials.

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