Assam, Tripura kick off balloting with high turnout

Guwahati/Agartala/New Delhi


India went to the polls Monday, with nearly six million people casting their vote in five constituencies in Assam and one of two seats in Tripura. The chief ministers of both the northeastern states dismissed any "Modi wave" and expressed happiness at the high voter turnout of at least 72.5 percent in Assam and as high as 84 percent in Tripura.

The nine-phase Lok Sabha election, the world's largest democratic exercise involving 814 million eligible voters spread across 28 states and seven union territories, began Monday and ends May 12. The results will be out May 16.

The Election Commission in New Delhi said the voter turnout in Assam was 72.5 percent and was expected to go up as "people were still in queue to vote" while, in Tripura, it was 84 percent till 5 p.m.

"Till 5 p.m., voter turnout was 72.5 percent...It might cross 75 percent," said a poll panel official.

Brisk polling was seen in five of the 14 Lok Sabha constituencies in Congress-ruled Assam and one of the two in Marxist-ruled Tripura. Voting for only these six seats, out of a total 543 in the country, was held Monday.

An estimated 6.4 million people were eligible to vote for the five seats in Assam.

In Assam, polling was peaceful even as the day coincided with the 'Raising Day' of insurgent outfit United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA).

As balloting began at 7 a.m., people queued up at polling stations in Tezpur, Jorhat, Kaliabor, Dibrugarh and Lakhimpur. Polling was briefly delayed in a few of the 8,588 booths due to technical snags in the electronic voting machines (EVMs).

The political fate of 51 candidates were sealed in the EVMs in Assam's first phase of polling. Three constituencies will go to the polls April 12 and the remaining six April 24.

Prominent candidates whose electoral fate was sealed Monday include the chief minister's son Gourav Gogoi, outgoing Congress MP Bijoy Krishna Handique, BJP state president Sarbananda Sonowal, and union ministers Ranee Narah and Paban Singh Ghatowar.

In Tripura, over 80 percent of the 1.2 million electorate cast their votes till 5 p.m. in Tripura West constituency, as polling was held for one of the two seats in the Left-ruled state, an official said.

"Long queues of people were seen in most of the 1,605 polling stations. Clear sky with excellent weather encouraged voters to come to the polling booths early," Tripura Chief Electoral Officer Ashutosh Jindal told IANS.

Voting was delayed for a while in some polling booths due to technical snags in the EVMs but engineers either replaced or rectified the machines, he said.

Jindal said no major complaint of wrongdoing was received from any party.

Polling in the tribal reserved Tripura East constituency will be held April 12.

In Agartala, Chief Minister Manik Sarkar questioned a wave in favour of BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.

"Where is the Modi wave? There is no Modi wave not only in Tripura but also in the entire country. The corporate media has created this so-called wave," Sarkar said.

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi spoke on similar lines in Jorhat after casting his vote: "Modi magic will not work here. It is Tarun Gogoi's magic that will work here."

"We earlier had problems like insurgency and lack of development (in Assam). The performance of my government is better than Gujarat's in many aspects."

In the last polls in 2009, the voter turnout was 84.45 percent and in 2004 it was 67.39 percent across Tripura. - IANS