Tripura elections may see higher voter turnout for a third time

New Delhi: Tripura has recorded high voter turnout in two consecutive state assembly elections. It aims to do a repeat for a third time.

The fear of votes being misused, a history of insurgency and heightened political awareness have combined to make people in the north-eastern keen voters.

In 2013, the state which has an electorate of approximately 2.4 million, saw a turnout of 93%. In 2008, the turnout was approximately 91%.

“There is no option of not going to cast our vote. It is our constitutional right to go vote,” said 55-year-old Rakesh Roy at Maharaj Ganj Bazaar in Khowai constituency.

Among constituencies, Khowai recorded one of the highest turnouts in the last assembly elections in 2013, with 96.01% of the electorate turning up to vote.

Sharing its border with Bangladesh, the town of Khowai saw 37,309 voters out of a total of 38,860 cast their ballots in the last assembly elections. The semi-urban assembly constituency, 55 km from the state capital of Agartala, consists of a population of both Bengalis and Tripuris.

“Tripura has overcome a long period of insurgency. People here are very politically aware and don’t want their vote to go to waste. There is a fear here that their vote will be misused if they don’t go to the polling station to cast their vote,” said Mritunjya Nath Sharma, who runs a book shop in Khowai.

Tripura is seeing a straight contest between the Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPM, which has been in power for five consecutive terms, and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

On Thursday, addressing a rally at Santir Bazaar, a reserved constituency in South Tripura, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the Election Commission (EC) has a challenge to ensure peaceful polls in the state.

“The CPM knows that they are in trouble. They will try and instil fear in the coming days. I assure you that the law will not leave them. It is a challenge for the EC, that from the 18th (of February) to when the results are announced, that there is no violence in Tripura. That polling should take place peacefully and without any incidents. The country wishes that the EC does not let any violence happen in the state,” Modi said.

High turnouts were recorded across the state in previous elections. In the last one, a polling booth under Radha Kishorpur assembly constituency in Gomati district saw a voter turnout of 99%—600 voters out of 605 came out to vote.

Bidhan Deb, a jeweller in Khowai constituency, said: “Voters here are very politically active. Interest levels are very high here and people make it a point to go out to vote. At the end of the day, Tripura is a small state and every vote matters.”

Elections for the 60-member state assembly will be held on 18 February, and results will be announced on 3 March, along with those in Meghalaya and Nagaland. Currently, the Left Front holds as many as 50 seats.livemint