68% polling in Nagaland till end of voting hours, voters in queues


Over 68 per cent of the total 11.70 lakh voters exercised their franchise in Nagaland Assembly elections by the end of voting hours on Tuesday even as hundreds were still awaiting their turn to cast their ballot, officials said.

Tuesday's election was marred by a clash between supporters of the ruling Naga People's Front and the Bharatiya Janata Party in Zunheboto district, in which one person was shot dead and two persons injured.

"Though voting ended at 4 p.m., a huge numbers of voters were still waiting in queues at a large number of polling stations across the state," Chief Electoral Officer Abhijit Sinha told IANS.

He said the voting percentage was, therefore, expected to increase.

In the 2013 Nagaland elections, 90.19 per cent voter turnout was recorded.

Nagaland Police chief Rupin Sharma told IANS on the clash: "Initially, some people prevented voters from entering the polling station, which was opposed by a rival group after which clashes erupted in Akuluto constituency. The two groups indulged in firing, following which police opened fire. As of now, we are not able to ascertain the cause of injuries." 

He said police reinforcements were rushed to the area to control the situation.

Sinha said polling was smooth in Akuluto seat.

Even before polling commenced at 7 a.m., one person was injured when a bomb went off at a polling station at 5.45 a.m., and a mob destroyed a Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machine in Tizit constituency in eastern Meghalaya.

However, Sinha said polling had since resumed and went on smoothly in the affected polling stations.

A total of 11,91,513 electorate, including 5,89,806 women and 26,900 new voters, were to decide the fate of 195 candidates, including five women and many independents. Counting of votes will take place on March 3.

There were no third-gender voters in the state.

Three-time Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio of the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDDP) has been declared elected unopposed from Northern Angami-II constituency after lone rival Chupfuo Angami of the ruling Naga People's Front (NPF) withdrew his nomination on February 12.

The newly floated NDPP has stitched an alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party and the two are contesting 40 and 20 seats, respectively.

"We are confident of emerging as the single largest party and will unseat the NPF from power in Nagaland," Rio told IANS.

However, Chief Minister T.R. Zeliang voiced confidence that the NPF will retain power. 

"We are confident we will emerge as the single-largest party on March 3 when votes are counted. We will retain power and lead the next government," Zeliang told IANS.

The run-up to the polls saw several twists and turns, with the Core Committee of Nagaland Tribal Hohos and Civil Organisations (CCNTHCO) demanding a solution to the vexed Naga problem before the elections.

Polling time in 103 polling stations in six districts was from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., while in the remaining 2,053 stations it was 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Of the 2,156 polling stations, 1,062 were designated 'critical', and 530 'vulnerable'.