Voting for 59 Assembly constituencies in Tripura began at 7 am on Sunday, with the ruling Left party – in power for 25 years – facing its toughest challenge from the Bharatiya Janata Party this year.

More than 26 lakh people will choose from 292 candidates fighting for 59 of 60 Assembly constituencies, NDTV reported. By 6 pm, 76% of voters had cast their votes in 41 constituencies, ANI reported. Reports of EVMs malfunctioning came in from the Banamalipur and Badarghat constituencies.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) government has been in power in the state since 1993, with Chief Minister Manik Sarkar at the helm since 1998.

The BJP, looking to unseat the Left, had both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party chief Amit Shah campaigning in the state. The party has also tied up with the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura, which has been demanding for a separate state of Twipraland for the Tripuri tribe.

The last time the Left Front lost Tripura was 1988, when the Congress, in alliance with a tribal party, won power, The Hindu reported. However, since 1993, the Communists have retained power in the north-eastern state.

While the BJP has campaigned for change, and is banking on the vote of the youth who are dissatisfied with the unemployment crisis in the state, the Left Front has criticised it for tying up with a separatist group.

Director General of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police R K Pachnanda is the special observer to coordinate security forces on election duty. At least 300 companies of central forces have been deployed at 3,214 polling stations in Tripura.

Elections to the Charilam Assembly seat in Tripura will be held on March 12, as the Communist Party of India (Marxist) candidate Ramendra Narayan Debbarma died after suffering a cardiac arrest while campaigning.