The Election Commission (EC) has made unprecedented security arrangements, including deployment of over 9,300 troopers, for the deferred voting to the Tripura East Lok Sabha constituency on Tuesday.
“Over 5,300 central para-military forces and 4,000 Tripura State Rifles (TSR) troopers are being deployed to conduct free, fair and smooth voting in the Tripura East seat,” a senior police official said.
The central forces included the BSF, the Assam Rifles, the ITBP and the CRPF. The TSR is a counter-insurgency force.
“The central forces would be deployed at most of the 1,645 polling booths in 1,349 locations, spread across six districts, for the April 23 vote,” Vikas Singh, returning officer to the parliamentary constituency, said.
Singh, also the district magistrate and Collector of the Dhalai district, said as part of confidence-building measures, the central forces have conducted intensive patrolling in all vulnerable, sensitive and remote places.
In an unprecedented move, the EC has appointed three central police observers and a special central police observer to oversee deployment of security forces during the vote in the constituency.
Citing “non-conducive security situation”, following reports by the chief electoral officer (CEO) Sriram Taranikanti, Special Central Police Observer Mrinal Kanti Das (former Manipur DGP), the Returning Officer and other intelligence inputs, the poll panel early last week had deferred voting to the seat from April 18 to April 23,
The CEO said all polling agents, candidates and, if necessary, 1,257,944 voters that include 620,291 women, would be provided security to facilitate free and fair polling.
Taranikanti said restrictions on movement of private vehicles and political activists in and around the polling stations would be followed strictly.
Another EC official said: “Senior EC officials are frequently having video conference with the CEO, DGP Akhil Kumar Shukla and the Returning Officer to review preparations for the polling.”
A senior police official said the DGP and other top police officials would camp in the Tripura East constituency to supervise security measures.
The EC, after deferring voting, had replaced Additional DGP (Law and Order) Rajiv Singh with V.S. Yadav. As Yadav is on leave, IGP (Crime Branch) Puneet Rastogi is looking after law and order.
Tripura has two Lok Sabha constituencies. Polling in the Tripura West seat was held on April 11.
There are 10 contestants, including two women, in the Tripura East seat. But three main contenders are CPI-M sitting MP Jitendra Choudhury, BJP’s Rebati Tripura and Maharaj Kumari Pragya Deb Barman (Congress), elder sister of state Congress chief Pradyot Bikram Manikya Deb Barman.
Since 1952, the Left parties have won the East Tripura seat 12 times and the Congress four times.
Tripura, which has traditionally witnessed a direct or triangular contest, will for the first time see a multi-cornered battle in the Tripura East constituency as the BJP has emerged as a potent political force after the 2018 Assembly polls.