Polling for the assemblies of Nagaland and Meghalaya began at 7 AM on Tuesday amid tight security. Though, both the assemblies have 60-seats each, the polling is being held in 59 seats. In Nagaland, NDPP chief Neiphiu Rio has won the Northern Angami-II seat unopposed, while the polling for one seat in Meghalaya will be held later.
Meghalaya saw 67% voting, while the voter turnout in Nagaland was recorded over 75%.
In Nagaland, more than half of the 2,156 polling stations have been declared critical. The election process in Nagaland had started on a difficult note with the Core Committee of Nagaland Tribal Hohos and Civil Organisations (CCNTHCO) advocating a “solution (to the Naga political issue) before election”.
Following no-election diktat, the political parties had initially kept away from the poll process and the first batch of 22 contestants filed their candidature only on the penultimate day on February 5, though filing of nominations had begun on January 31.
The BJP, which is determined to expand its footprint in the north-east after forming governments in Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh is relying on its partner, the NDPP.
The Congress, which has given three chief ministers to Nagaland since the state’s inception in 1963, is contesting from only 18 seats, two less than the BJP.
Voting will continue till 4 pm, except in some polling stations of the interior districts where it will end at 3 pm, election office sources said. Officials said as many as 281 companies of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF), besides the state police force, have been deployed throughout Nagaland to ensure peaceful polling.
A total of 11,76,432 voters — 5,97,281 men, 5,79,151 women and 5,884 service voters — are eligible to exercise their franchise to decide the fate of 195 candidates.
Electronic voting machines (EVMs) with voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) machines will be used for voting.
Meanwhile, in Meghalaya 18 lakh voters are eligible to exercise their franchise in more than 3,000 polling stations across the state.
Voting will be held in 59 seats as the election in Williamnagar in East Garo Hills district has been countermanded, following the killing of NCP candidate Jonathane N Sangma in an IED blast on February 18.
For the first time, 67 all-women polling stations and 61 model polling stations were set up in the state, he added.
State Director General of Police (DGP) S B Singh said 580 polling stations were categorised as “vulnerable” and strict security measures were in place across Meghalaya to ensure a free-and-fair election.
In Meghalaya, except for the two state parties — the United Democratic Party and the Hills State People’s Democratic Party — which have forged a pre-poll alliance and are contesting from 45 seats, 13 other political parties have fielded candidates independently.
The Congress and the BJP are pitted against each other in the north-eastern state with the former fielding 59 candidates and the latter putting up nominees in 47 constituencies.
Though they are contesting the polls separately, in Meghalaya, the National People’s Party (NPP) of Conrad Sangma, son of former Lok Sabha speaker PA Sangma, is the BJP’s partner in the North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA).
For the Congress, the poll outcome in Meghalaya is particularly significant as it has been ruling the state for the last 10 years.
The results of the polls, along with those of Tripura and Meghalaya, will be declared on March 3.
(With inputs from PTI)