Moderate to brisk polling underway in Nagaland


Kohima : Moderate to brisk voting was underway Wednesday in the northeastern state of Nagaland for elections to the 60-member assembly, with the Congress party and the Nagaland People’s Front (NPF)-led regional combine the main contenders for power.

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An election official said large numbers of people attired in their traditional tribal costumes lined up outside polling booths much before voting began at 7 a.m.

“An estimated 40 percent polling was recorded by midday and we expect a high turnout by the end of the day,” an election official said. Polling ends at 4 p.m.

Voting has been on without any report of violence. A total of 1.3 million voters are to decide the fate of 218 candidates – 60 from the Congress, 56 of the NPF, 23 from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), 25 from the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and eight from the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) among others.

The counting of votes will take place March 8. Although the two main Naga rebel groups, the Isak-Muivah and Khaplang factions of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN), are operating a ceasefire with the central government, the authorities are not taking any chances from the security point of view.

“We have deployed 168 additional paramilitary companies for election duty and have also kept two MI-17 helicopters ready to rush personnel of the Rapid Deployment Force to remote areas if necessary,” a police spokesman said.

The Congress is making a desperate bid to come back to power. The regional NPF-led Democratic Alliance of Nagaland (DAN) was in power in the hill state until the government of Neiphiu Rio was dismissed and President’s Rule imposed in January.

The Congress is trying to capitalise on Naga sentiments by promising in its election manifesto that if voted to power, it would push the demand for integration of Naga inhabited areas in the Northeast with the state of Nagaland.

This demand is also being pushed by the rebel NSCN-IM, but has been opposed by governments and groups in states like Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.

The NPF on its part has been telling the voters that Congress rule in the country is on the wane.