Counting of votes for the Assembly seats in Tripura,Meghalaya and Nagaland began at 8 am on Thursday morning amidst tight security.
Polling was held in 60 Assembly seats of Meghalaya,59 of the 60 seats in Nagaland and 60 seats in Tripura.
As counting of votes begins in three Northeastern states Nagaland,Meghalaya and Tripura all eyes are however fixed on Tripura,the last bastion of the Left,with the entire nation wondering whether Manik Sarkar will really be able to do what Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and VS Achuthanandan could not in West Bengal and Kerala respectively in 2011.
Sarkar,who is confident of taking the Left Front for the fifth consecutive term,in fact claims his party would win more seats than it did in 2008,taking the Left tally beyond 50. While the Left Front had 49 legislators in the outgoing House of 60,the Congress and its ally INPT had ten and one MLAs respectively. Critics of the Left Front who do not necessarily want to put their money in the Cong-INPT alliance,however think the Left may either lose a couple of seats or witness a reduction in vote-share,especially with a large section of state government employees remaining sore over Sarkars failure to give them a pay scale at par with central government employees.
But while the Congress-INPT still expects that the 1.74 lakh state government employees together with about five lakh unemployed persons would tilt the balance in its favour,the BJP contesting in as many as 50 seats is likely to indirectly benefit the Left Front because every vote that it is likely to get is from the Congress vote-base. Slicing away even 100 votes from the Congress would mean a 200-vote gain for the Left Front,and going by the small size of voters in each constituency in the tiny state with just 23.52 lakh voters,that itself will make a huge impact.
Nagaland too looks like witnessing a third consecutive victory for the Naga Peoples Front (NPF),which despite being bogged down by the arrest of top leader and home minister Imkong L Imchen following seizure of arms and cash worth more than Rs One crore,believes that the Congress is divided and weak. Interestingly,while the Naga peace talks is said to have entered a crucial stage,both Congress at the Centre and the NPF in the state stake claim over the progress. And,though nobody in the Naga Hills openly admit,the whisper is that the NSCN(IM) wants the NPF to win the elections,as it probably did in 2003 and 2008.
But what will be equally interesting is in Meghalaya,where politics is as unpredictable as the clouds over Cherrapunji,and where only once did any party ever win a clear majority. That happened way back in 1972,in the first election after Meghalaya was carved out with two districts of Assam. And,as the Khasis,Garos and Jaintias are all habituated to being ruled by coalitions,both Mukul Sangmas Congress and Purno Sangmas National Peoples Party (NPP) have continued to tell the people that it is their respective party that would head the next coalition.