A car, whose owner Sukhendu Saha, said his vehicle was parked at a stone's throw away from the polling station and yet it was damaged by miscreants

Agartala: A police constable, identified as Samir Saha, was stabbed by miscreants on Thursday who were trying to prevent voters from approaching the polling stations in Abhoynagar area in Agartala.

A police officer said Saha, an off-duty police constable, was going with his family to exercise his franchise in Kunjaban area in Agartala constituency and the assailants attempted to prevent Saha and his family members from casting their vote.

Although the polling turnout till 3:00 pm crossed 68 per cent, allegations of illegal assembly and breach to Section 144 CrPc in and around the polling station were rampant.

Claims of intruders from other parts of the state roaming freely in the Agartala city based poll-bound constituencies– 6-Agartala and 8-Bardowali, intimidating voters en route to polling stations were being made from many quarters.

However, there are no specific allegations of booth jamming or irregularities inside the polling stations. From some polling stations, reports of EVM malfunctioning were received but the technical snags were fixed within a short span of time to resume polling.

Speaking to reporters, voter Sukhendu Saha said his car was vandalized by unknown miscreants when he entered to cast his vote in Maharani Tulasibati Girl’s school located at the heart of the city.

He said, “I am afraid of the situation prevailing everywhere. The miscreants have broken the front windshield of my car stationed at a stone’s throw away from the polling station. My mother who came with me to cast her vote for Chief Minister Dr Manik Saha returned home teary-eyed.”

Similarly, some elderly voters also alleged that miscreants threatened them of dire consequences if they turn up for voting in the respective polling station. Another voter, Shibajyoti Bhattacharjee, who was going to the polling station along with his elderly mother was stopped and physically assaulted by unidentified miscreants.

He said, “I was going to vote with my mother. All of a sudden, miscreants stopped our rickshaw and threatened us not to proceed further. They told us that our vote was already done. When I resisted, they assaulted me physically. My mother was begging them for mercy. We returned home. In such a situation, how can we reach the polling stations?”

Bhattacharjee was en route to Bani Bidyapith School polling station that comes under 8-Bardowali constituency from where CM Dr Manik Saha is also contesting.

Speaking on the issue, Superintendent of Police, West Tripura, Bogati Jagadishwar Reddy said, “Elections are so far peaceful everywhere. Wherever we are receiving any complaints, actions are being taken immediately. We have received a number of complaints of illegal assembly and all those spots were vacated by police forces followed by raids. I am appealing to everyone to come forward and participate in the polling process.”

Speaking on the issue, former minister and Congress candidate for 6-Agartala constituency Sudip Roy Barman claimed that the Election Commission of India had been “backstabbed” by the people working underneath it.

“The flying squads are enjoying a field day in the city. If the police decide to raid a spot, the miscreants are being alerted beforehand. Accordingly, they are changing their location and when the police raid is over, they are assembling again to threaten the voters. Such tactics of threatening and intimidating voters to ensure that people’s mandate is not reflected rightly through their votes is not democracy,” said Barman.

Barman also slammed DGP Tripura police for not being on the ground on the poll day. “He is nowhere. He has not been seen so far. The SP came out after repeated complaints but there is no change in the situation.”

Expressing confidence in his victory, Barman said, “I have full faith in the people who have turned up to cast their votes. And, I strongly feel nothing can prevent me from emerging victorious again.”

On the role of police administration, Barman said. “There are specific guidelines of the Election Commission of India and section 144 CrPc is already in force. All the parties have been strictly directed to keep only two persons in the makeshift booth offices. No one is paying any heed to the Election Commission’s guidelines,” he added.

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, on the other hand, said the elections are being conducted peacefully across the state. Deputy Chief Minister Jishnu Dev Varma who cast his vote at Acharya Prafulla Chandra School said, “Those who have been repeatedly saying that democracy does not exist in Tripura, this peaceful election is an answer to them. People are arriving at the polling stations in a festive mood and we are hopeful of an easy victory.”

On the allegations raised by Barman, Dev Varma said, “The opposition always looks for excuses. After all they have to say something if the results are against them, so it is a pressure tactic that opposition parties use always.”

On the police constable being stabbed, the deputy CM termed it a “stray incident” and that such incidents are normal.

Meanwhile, ECI observers, poll officials, micro observers were seen visiting the polling stations.        

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