KOHIMA: Voting to elect a new government in the single-phased Nagaland Assembly polls began on 59 constituencies at 7 am on Monday amid tight security.
The electoral fates of 183 candidates of various parties will be sealed as the voting would continue till 4 pm today.
People were seen thronging the polling stations to cast their votes early in the morning. The state had witnessed nearly 75 per cent voter turnout in the 2018 Assembly polls and 90.57 per cent in 2013.
During the high-decibel election campaign that ended on Saturday, all the contesting parties made a last-ditch effort to win over the voters in bid to swing their mandate in their favour. Many top BJP leaders, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah canvassed for party candidates during the last leg of the campaigning.
The voting is underway in 59 out of 60 Assembly constituencies, as BJP candidate Kazheto Kinimi was declared winner uncontested from Zunheboto district’s Akuluto constituency after his opponent from the Congress, N Khekashe Sumi, pulled out of the race on the last day for withdrawal of nominations, which was February 10.
In Monday’s polls, the BJP is contesting in alliance with the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP), its old alliance partner in the 2018 Assembly polls as well.
The BJP will, however, will be the role of a junior partner, having agreed to a seat-sharing ratio of 20:40 in the state. The Congress and Naga People’s Front are contesting in 23 and 22 seats respectively. The CPI is contesting on 1, NCP on 12, NPP 12, RPP 1, JD(U) 7, LJP (Ram Vilas) 15, RPI (Athawale) 9, RJD 3, and Independents 19 seats.
The party had forged an alliance with the NDPP in 2018 and had successfully formed an alliance government with the backing of Janata Dal (United) and an Independent. The BJP had won 12 seats while NDPP had registered a win on the 17 seats, while the JD(U) clinched 1 seat.
During the poll campaign, NDPP campaigners and Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio was seen doing public rallies in almost all the constituencies. NPF leader Kuzholuzo Nienu has declared he is open to post-poll public rallies with other parties and candidates.
Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge also addressed an election rally in Dimapur while party MP Shashi Tharoor addressed a rally in Kohima.
The Congress has also announced that they can opt for a post-poll alliance if required. There are a total of 13,17,632 electorate in Nagaland, of which 6,61,489 are men and 6,56,143 are women.
A total of 2,351 polling stations have been set up in the state. Merapani polling station no. 71 under the Bhandari assembly constituency in the Wokha district has the lowest number of electors at 37.
According to the Election Commission, 305 companies from various security forces have been deployed at the polling stations across the state to ensure a smooth and fair voting process.
Chief Election Officer, Nagaland V Shashank Shekhar (IAS), Home Commissioner Nagaland Abhijit Sinha (IAS), and Nagaland Director General of Police, Rupin Sharma (IPS), visited Wokha district on February 25 and held a series of meeting with the district administration, Police, Political Parties and civil societies organisations of Wokha district at the office chamber of the Deputy Commissioner & District Election Officer, Wokha. Representatives of BJP, NCP, JDU, NDPP, and NPF attended meeting with political parties.
However, according to the Commission, the visit was against the backdrop of certain incidents of pre-poll violence in some districts of the state, including Wokha.
“The chief electoral officer of Nagaland, Home commissioner, Nagaland, and DGP, Nagaland reviewed the law and order in the district and held consultations with the various political parties and civil societies for maintaining a peaceful atmosphere and conduct of free and fair elections. The visiting officials appealed to the leaders to sensitize the public to maintain peace and not to indulge in any election-related violence,” an official statement said.
According to the EC, CCTV surveillance has been installed in all the critical/vulnerable polling stations across the state with either webcasting or videography.
“A minimum of 50 per cent of polling stations in each district are being covered,” Chief Election Officer, Nagaland, V Shashank Shekhar, said.
The fates of several key players are on the line in these elections. Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio, an NDPP nominee, is contesting from the Northern Angami-I seat in the Kohima district. He is up against Congress candidate Seyievilie Chachu on the seat.
Deputy Chief Minister Yanthungo Patton of the BJP is contesting from Tyui. N Jacob Zhimomi from the BJP has been fielded from Ghaspani where he is up against Congress candidate Akavi N Zhimomi. BJP state chief Temjen Imna Along is contesting from Alongtaki.
NDPP’s Hekani Jakhalu has been given a ticket from Dimapur – lll where Lok Janshakti Party (Ram Vilas’s) Azheto Zhimomi has been fielded. BJP candidate Tovihoto Ayemi is up against Congress’ Kewekhape Therie.
Other contests to look forward to include NDPP’s Medo Yhokha and Independent candidate Kevipodi Sophie from the Southern Angami l seat, NDPP’s Kudecho Khamo and Dr Chotisuh Sazo of the LJP (Ram Vilas) from Chozuba, NPF’s Achumbemo Kikon and BJP’s Mmhonlumo Kikon from Bhandari.
The issues pertaining to the state that may have an influence on the electorates on the day of polling include the demand for a separate state by the eastern areas of the state, the allegations of corruption, government schemes, and projects in the state, border conflicts with Assam and insurgency.
The counting of votes will take place on March 2 along with Tripura and Meghalaya. (ANI)