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Tripura voters out of shadow of guns

Agartala, March 30: Tripura is set to have the 2014 elections without the shadow of militant guns.

Chief electoral official Ashutosh Jindal today said of 3,095 polling stations spread across the state’s two Lok Sabha seats, only 25 have been notified as “hyper sensitive” and 350 as “sensitive”.

“This identification has been done taking in account the question of law and order and vulnerability. The number will be revised according to situation,” said Jindal while addressing reporters in Agartala.

Most of the “hyper-sensitive' polling stations fall in hilly interiors of the state bordering Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh though Jindal refused to name them.

For the Lok Sabha polls, Tripura will has electorate of 23,85,000. “We are planning to set up at least 10 all-women polling stations to facilitate smooth voting by women. This time we have three females among altogether 25 candidates —13 in West Tripura and 12 in East Tripura (ST). In 2004 and 2009, there was no female candidate,” said Jindal.

During the past five years, a growth of 14 per cent has been registered in voters. In 2009, the total electorate was 19.8 lakh while this time the strength of total electorate is 23,85,000.

“Altogether 1.25 lakh voters belong to the age group of 18-19 years who are first time voters while altogether 13.57 lakh voters are under the age of 40,” said Jindal.

Tripura has been traditionally high voter-turnout state though in 2004 Lok Sabha polls, the voter turnout was only 67 per cent.

“That was exception as in the 2008 Assembly polls, the turnout was more than 91 per cent while in 2009 the Lok Sabha polls, the polling percentage was 84.5. Last year in the Assembly polls, the voter turnout reached 93 per cent. This time, too, a high voter turnout is expected though the heat wave may be a factor,” said Jindal.

He said voting by postal ballot would commence from April 1 for which a number of facilitation centres have been opened.

“There will be a brief training session of polling officials tomorrow and voting by postal ballot will start from April 1, mainly for security forces, employees and officers,” said Jindal.

He said 15,000 among 30,000 Reang tribal refugees from Mizoram, sheltered in seven camps in Kanchanpur subdivision of North Tripura, would cast their votes by postal ballot. The district magistrate of North Tripura and sub-divisional magistrate of Kanchanpur subdivision will be in charge of voting by Reang refugees by postal ballot.

On the EVMs, Jindal said all the machines for 1,605 polling stations in West Tripura (general) constituency were commissioned and there would be stand-by machines for exigencies.

“From tomorrow, commissioning of EVMs for 1,490 polling stations of East Tripura seat will start and deployment of security forces will commence from April 1, first for April 7 poll of West Tripura seat and then for East Tripura seat,” said Jindal.

He said the budget for the Lok Sabha polls in Tripura is Rs 22 crore.