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Militants call off bandh, polls on

- Preparations in place in 3 Lok Sabha constituencies of Assam and East Tripura that vote today

April 11: Preparations are in place in the three Assam constituencies of Silchar, Karimganj and Autonomous District as well as in East Tripura (ST) constituency where polls will be held tomorrow as part of the fourth of the nine-phase Lok Sabha elections.

In Assam’s twin hill districts of Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao, which constitute the Autonomous District constituency, the militant Karbi Peoples Liberation Tigers (KPLT) today withdrew its indefinite bandh from 5am tomorrow so that voters can exercise their franchise.

The outfit’s self-styled general secretary, Rang Mijang, sent sms to reporters in Diphu, the district headquarters of Karbi Anglong, saying that the KPLT wanted to give voters the opportunity to exercise their franchise as it was their right. Hence all normal work would resume from 5am tomorrow. The outfit had called the bandh from Tuesday morning. Earlier, Mijang had said they would reconsider the bandh only if candidates promised to place the hemprek kanthim (autonomous state) issue in Parliament.

Karbi Anglong police claimed the bandh call could hardly have an impact on polling as the administration has sufficient security cover throughout the hill district.

The impact of the bandh was total in Karbi Anglong and partial in Dima Hasao. According to reports, militants set fore to a wooden bridge in Hamren subdivision of Karbi Anglong this morning. KPLT cadres also fired on some BJP supporters who were returning from a rally near Boithalangso yesterday.

Voting in the constituency will start at 7am and continue till 5pm as in the two Barak Valley seats of Silchar and Karimganj.

In the fray are six candidates. The main contest will be between Congress’s Biren Singh Engti and the BJP’s Jayram Engleng. The bandh hampered the campaigning schedule of all the candidates.

A polling personnel in Diphu said, “There was fear among all polling personnel as nobody wants to put their life at risk. The withdrawal brings all uncertainty to an end.”

Administrative officials in all the three constituencies said poll personnel had left for their respective booths.

In Barak Valley, officials on duty in the 21 difficult polling booths of Hailakandi district left on Wednesday. Some of these polling centres like Kanchwala, Pakua Punjee, Gut-Guti, Bagcherra and Riflemara are located in the difficult terrain of Assam-Mizoram border areas. They don’t have road connectivity and the personnel will go by boat. In Silchar constituency, too, poll officials left for 667 booths on Wednesday.

Altogether 32 candidates are in the fray in the two constituencies — 17 in Silchar and 15 in Karimganj (SC).

In Silchar, the prominent candidates are sitting MP Kabindra Purkayastha of the BJP, Sushmita Dev of the Congress who is also the Silchar MLA, Kutub Ahmed Mazumdar of the AIUDF, Bijoy Krishna Nath of the AGP and Wajed Reja Choudhury of the Samajwadi Party. Trinamul Congress is contesting an election for the first time here. Its candidate, Wajid Raja Osmani, is the son of well-known politician, late Golam Osmani. Silchar is all set to witness a direct contest between the Congress and the BJP.

In Karimganj, the prominent candidates are sitting MP Lalit Mohan Suklabaidya of the Congress, Krishna Das of the BJP and Radheshyam Biswas of the AIUDF. The constituency is all set to witness a triangular contest between the Congress, the BJP and the AIUDF.

The administration of Cachar, Hailakandi and Karimganj districts, which comprise the two constituencies, has taken several measures to increase the voting percentage of women.

Heavy security forces have been deployed throughout the valley. There will be armed forces in all the polling booths.

An additional 20 companies of paramilitary forces have been deployed in Cachar district. A 48-hour dry day has been declared since 5pm last evening, Cachar deputy commissioner Gokul Mohan Hazarika said. A ban has been imposed on possession, distribution and sale of any kind of intoxicant by any person or group of persons in all places. Heavy raids are on to curb illegal activities throughout the district. Similar action is being taken in Karimganj and Hailakandi districts.

The government has also taken strong action against absent poll personnel. Karimganj block elementary education officer of Badarpur, Ajiur Rahman, was suspended yesterday for disobeying the district returning officer’s order. A lower division assistant of Government Victoria Memorial Higher Secondary School of Hailakandi, Liyakat Ali Mazumdar, was suspended for not reporting during the receipt of poll materials.

Cachar police suspended 15 constables for not attending duty at the poll material distribution centre in Silchar. The constables are Hussain Ali, Pravin Bora, Najmul Haque Choudhury, Ananta Kumar Nath, Nasirul Haqque, Ibocha Singha, Mihir Kanti Das, Shiv Kanti Dey, Krishna Sinha, Dipak Kanti Das, Mridul Choudhury, Gautam Sinha, Kadir Hussain Laskar, Jahar Kanti Nath and Bijoy Sinha.

While Assam will vote in the second of its three-phase election tomorrow, Tripura will vote for the second of its two seats. West Tripura voted on April 7.

The East Tripura (ST) constituency has 1,490 polling stations, of which six — three in Khowai district headquarters and three in Teliamura subdivisional town — will be exclusively managed by women.

Chief electoral officer Ashutosh Jindal said poll officials have started moving towards their booths and security measures have been tightened all over the constituency in view of recent border violations by miscreants from Bangladesh and because of fear of trouble from Mizoram.

Polling will begin at 7am and end at 5pm.

There are 12 candidates in the fray in East Tripura — Jiten Chowdhury (CPM), Sachitra Debbarma (Congress), Bhriguram Reang (Trinamul Congress), Parikshit Debbarma (BJP), Basu Mog (Tripura Gramin Vikash Congress), Narendra Chandra Debbarma (IPFT), Prabiddha Reang (Independent), Falguni Tripura (CPI-ML), Vikash Debbarma (Jay Mahabharat Party), Patal Kanya Jamatya (Independent), Subarnamala Debbarma (Amra Bangali) and Karna Vijay Jamatya (AAP).

Altogether seven observers — four general observers, two expenditure observers and one police observer — will monitor the polling process besides more than 400 micro-observers.


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