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Battlelines drawn as stage set for voting in Meghalaya, Nagaland

Meghalaya and Nagaland witnessed a high-decibel campaign for the polls that came to an end last evening. The counting of votes in the two states, along with that of Tripura, will be held on March 3. 

Written by Kallol Dey | New Delhi |
Updated: February 27, 2018 5:17:55 am
Battlelines drawn as stage set for voting in Meghalaya, Nagaland Nongpoh: Polling officers carry an electronic voting machine after collecting it from a distribution centre ahead of Meghalaya Assembly election at Nongpoh of Ri-Bhoi district in Meghalaya on Monday. (PTI Photo)

Will the Christian dominated states of Meghalaya and Nagaland vote to allow the BJP juggernaut to roll in? This will be decided on Tuesday as the electorate of both states exercise their right to adult franchise to elect who would be the members of the two 60-member houses. Incidentally, polling will be conducted for 59 seats in both the states with one candidate declared unopposed in Nagaland and election in one constituency of Meghalaya countermanded.

In Nagaland, three-time chief minister and former Lok Sabha MP, Neiphiu Rio, the chief ministerial candidate for Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) has been declared unopposed after his Naga People’s Front rival withdrew from the contest in Northern Angami-II A/C. In Meghalaya, the election has been countermanded in Williamnagar following the killing of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) candidate Jonathone N Sangma in an IED blast in East Garo Hills district.

In Nagaland, the BJP in alliance with Rio-led NDPP will look to oust NPF which has been in power since 2003. The alliance was cemented after BJP’s seat-sharing talks with the NPF feel through. The BJP-NDPP alliance was also not bereft of drama as the Nagaland state unit of BJP tried to resist its central unit’s decision of 20-40 seat sharing with NDPP. NPF has fielded candidates on 59 seats, with chief minister TR Zeliang leading from the front, and will look to foil Rio’s comeback attempt. NPF goes into the contest with a pre-poll alliance with National People’s Party (NPP), which has fielded 25 candidates despite being barely two-month-old in the state. JD (U) which kept away from alliance with NPF has 13 contenders. Election to the 13th Nagaland Legislative Assembly will also see three Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidates in the fray.

Nongpoh: Polling officers carry an electronic voting machine (EVM) after collecting it from a distribution centre ahead of Meghalaya Assembly election at Nongpoh of Ri-Bhoi district in Meghalaya on Monday. (PTI Photo)

In Meghalaya, chief minister Mukul Sangma-led Congress facing a dual threat from Conrad Sangma-led NPP and the BJP which has been a marginal player till the last election. Congress has fielded 59 candidates and BJP 47. NPP has 52 candidates in the fray. NPP has gained major footing beyond the hills of Tura where it had a strong presence. NPP is in alliance with BJP at the centre and in Manipur but in Meghalaya, the two are fighting battles on their own. All eyes will also be on the United Democratic Party (UDP), Hill State People’s Democratic Party (HSPDP) and Garo National Council (GNC) who have formed a pre-poll alliance and can play the kingmaker. The three have fielded 54 seats while there are 84 Independent candidates. The alliance and the Independents can decide the fate of the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly if none of the big players secure a majority. In 2013, the Congress won 29 seats, Independents won 13, while UDP and HSPDP won eight and four seats respectively. The NPP bagged two seats while BJP came up with zero.

READ | Nagaland elections: For Neiphiu Rio, TR Zeliang is a ‘friend’, but there is nothing friendly about their campaign rhetoric

Voters and candidates

184 candidates from nine parties and 11 independent candidates are in the fray. The result of one seat has already gone in favour of NDPP. A total of 11,91,513 voters, out of which 5,89,806 are women, and 5,925 service voters. Voting will be conducted in 2,156 polling stations. 370 candidates are in the fray in Meghalaya which has 18,30,104 voters, out of which 9,23,848 are women.

Women on March

Both Nagaland and Meghalaya are seeing an increase in the number of women candidates. In Nagaland, where no woman ever has been voted to the Assembly, five women candidates are in the fray – the highest ever. The number of women candidates in Meghalaya is also the highest this time around with 32 in the fray.

While Meghalaya has 67 all-women polling stations, Nagaland has 177 across 25 constituencies.

Crorepatis and criminals

59 percent of the total number of candidates in Nagaland elections are crorepatis. 43 from NPF, 13 from BJP, 24 from NDPP, 7 from JD(U) and 6 from the Congress have been found to be crorepatis. The average asset-worth per candidate was found to be Rs 3.76 crore. 27 candidates or nearly 14 per cent did not declare their source of income in the poll affidavits. 152 candidates out of 370 – around 41 percent – in Meghalaya are crorepatis. NPP has the highest percentage of crorepati candidates at 65 followed by the Congress (58%) and UDP (54%). In terms of criminal cases, only 2 percent of the candidates – one each from the NPF, BJP and NDPP. In comparison, out of the 370 candidates, 25 or 7 percent candidates in Meghalaya polls have declared criminal cases – 21 candidates have serious criminal charges against them. BJP and the Congress have equal percentage of candidates with criminal and serious criminal cases at 9 percent and 2 percent, respectively. NPP has 6 percent candidates with criminal cases and 4 percent facing serious charges.

While both Nagaland and Meghalaya will vote on Tuesday, the counting, along with Tripura is slated for March 3.

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