April 12: Barring stray incidents of violence, polling passed off peacefully in the four constituencies in the Northeast that went to the polls today with a voter turnout of 75 per cent in the three constituencies of Assam and 82 per cent in East Tripura (ST).
Assam additional chief electoral officer R.C. Jain told The Telegraph that the total voter turnout in Karimganj, Silchar and Autonomous District was 75 per cent till 9.30pm. The state had recorded a polling percentage of 78.6 in the first phase — the highest in any parliamentary poll in Assam so far.
Jain said there was EVM malfunction during polling in all the three constituencies. While 21 EVMs were replaced and polling proceeded smoothly, repolling may be ordered in five booths in Karimganj seat where the machines stopped functioning — three in Karimganj district and two in Hailakandi district.
Barak Valley witnessed a heavy voter turnout amid clear weather. Cachar deputy commissioner-cum-district returning officer Gokul Mohan Hazarika expressed satisfaction at the voter turnout, particularly in the district headquarters of Silchar. People queued up in front of booths before the centres opened.
In Karimganj (SC) seat, there were a few incidents of violence and EVM malfunction. Administrative sources said 13 EVMs were changed during the actual polls.
In Hailakandi district, voting had to be stopped at 117 Gaglacherra LP School and at 158 Ananta Vidyaniketan LP School because of EVM malfunction.
Three homeguards were injured in a clash with Congress workers who tried to snatch away the EVM at 170 Chaitanya Vidyapeeth LP School in Hailakandi Hertbardganj Bazar area around 3pm. The injured are Safique Uddin, Mrinal Uddin and Selim Uddin. A huge police team reached the centre and brought the situation under control. In Killarbak booth, the CRPF caned voters over smoking as polling booths are “no smoking” areas.
In Karimganj district, voting had to be stopped in three booths — Deorail Madrassa, Ramalochan HS School and Bagargool LP School — because of EVM malfunction. There were also reports of clashes between Congress, BJP and AIUDF workers in some polling booths.
Karimganj witnessed a triangular contest between sitting Congress MP Lalit Mohan Suklabaidya, AIUDF’s Radheshyam Biswas and Krishna Das of the BJP. Altogether 15 candidates are in the fray.
After casting his vote in Hailakandi, Katlicherra MLA Gautam Roy alleged that a Congress leader of Karimganj had sabotaged the prospects of the party candidate in Karimganj seat. He said he would inform the high command about this. Despite this, he claimed Suklabaidya would win the seat for the third time in a row.
A first-time voter in Hailakandi, Varsha Bhattacharjee, was jubilant after casting her vote at 117 Shyamacharan Gnyada Sundari Pathsala. She said everyone should exercise their franchise for the formation of a stable government.
Niharendu Choudhury, 66, a retired schoolteacher and artist, said he had voted for development and change.
Silchar returning officer Gokul Mohan Hazarika said the polls were peaceful in the constituency and no repoll had been ordered. He said 21 EVMs had been replaced, 19 of them during mock polls in the morning. Sources said suspected militants destroyed the EVM at a polling centre in Lakhipur, 32km from Silchar town, but it was replaced.
Most people in the constituency chose to cast their votes in the morning and afternoon because of the hot and humid weather.
Silchar witnessed a straight contest between sitting BJP MP Kabindra Purkayastha and Sushmita Dev of the Congress despite 17 candidates being in the fray.
In two places in Barak Valley, voters boycotted polls.
At 292 Huriarpar LP School polling centre in Hailakandi district under Karimganj constituency, 714 Muslim fishermen boycotted polls in protest against “no development” in the area.
At 420 Nandapur LP School under Silchar constituency, 1,168 voters boycotted the polls in protest against non-construction of a road in Tukerbusttee village under Udharbond Assembly constituency.
Elections passed off peacefully in Autonomous District too where two militant groups, the Karbi Peoples’ Liberation Tigers and the Karbi National Liberation Army had called an indefinite bandh from Tuesday. The KPLT withdrew the bandh from 5am today while the KLNA’s bandh is on.
Sarthe Ranghi, a resident of Parakhowa, said, “People came to know about withdrawal of the bandh from newspapers only this morning. This may be the reason why voting was poor till 9am.”
Langtuk Timung, 35, of Hauraghat said the KPLT move had brought voters’ uncertainty to an end. Langtuk, a Karbi who lives in a small town near hills area development minister Khorsingh Engti’s house, also appeared torn between the desire for a change and the benefits that would continue with status quo. “I want change but don’t want to miss opportunities like getting rice at a subsidised rate, BPL electricity connection and my MGNREGA job card. If I opt for change, I might be opting out of these benefits. I am confused,” he said.
Lengthy queues were witnessed in almost all polling stations in Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao districts, which comprise the constituency.
Karbi Anglong police said no law and order violation was reported during polling hours.
An IED blast took place in the district a few hours after elections were held. An employee of Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council, Ghana Terang, was injured in the blast at a culvert near Dokmoka, 70km from Diphu, the district headquarters, at 8.45 tonight.
In the East Tripura (ST) seat, polling began briskly in all the 1,490 booths across the predominantly hilly constituency at 7am. Official sources in the election department here said indigenous men and women clad in traditional attire formed long queues before the polling stations since early morning.
“By 6pm, 82 per cent voters had cast their ballots. The final percentage will be known only after computation of all the voting figures from all the polling stations,” additional chief electoral officer D.C. Das said. In 2009, 82 per cent polling had been recorded in East Tripura but the overall polling percentage in the state was 84 per cent because polling in West Tripura (general) was 86 per cent.
Dhalai district magistrate and returning officer for East Tripura, Prashant Kumar Goel, said seven EVMs developed minor snags in Kamalpur and Gandacherra subdivisions before polling began but they were set right. “When poll was on, four more EVMs developed problems in Longtarai valley subdivision but they were also rectified within 15 minutes. Thereafter, polling proceeded smoothly,” he said.
Chief electoral officer Ashutosh Jindal said polling was “smooth and peaceful”.
All the 12 contenders for the seat, including Jiten Chowdhury (CPM), Sachitra Debbarma (Congress), Bhriguram Reang (Trinamul) and Parikshit Debbarma (BJP), cast their votes early in their respective places.
Chowdhury told reporters, “East Tripura is my party’s surest seat. Here, our main target is the margin of victory and we are sure that a record will be set. In 2009, it was nearly 3 lakh but this time it is likely to be above 4 lakh,” he said.
Congress candidate and former headmaster Sachitra Debbarma hoped voters would favour his party.