Polling begins in Nagaland

Kohima, Feb 27 (PTI) Election to the 60-member Nagaland Assembly began at 7 am today amid a tight security as more than half of the 2,156 polling stations in the north-eastern state have been declared critical. With Nationalist Democratic People's Party (NDPP) chief Neiphiu Rio winning the Northern Angami-II seat unopposed, polling is being held in 59 seats. 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. Nagaland's Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Abhijit Sinha said of the 2,156 polling stations in the state, 1,100 were declared as "critical", 530 "vulnerable" and 526 "normal". All the polling stations would be manned by the CAPF personnel and the state police would also be assisting them, he added. 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. There were no third-gender voters in the state, while the number of first-time voters was 26,900, Assistant Chief Electoral Officer Awa Lorin said. Voting will be conducted in 2,156 polling stations as 40 polling stations fall under the Northern Angami-II seat, from where Rio has been declared elected unopposed. Over 15,000 government employees will be on poll duty and there will be 177 all-women polling stations across 25 constituencies of the state. Sinha said there were 55 election observers -- 22 general and expenditure observers each and 11 police observers -- besides 442 micro-observers. Electronic voting machines (EVMs) with voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) machines will be used for voting, he added. 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 this 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. There was a heavy rush of nominees filing their papers on the last day. 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. In Nagaland, the saffron party's hope hinges on its alliance partner NDPP, which is contesting from 40 seats. The BJP has fielded candidates from the remaining 20 seats. 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. The results of the polls, along with those of Tripura and Meghalaya, will be declared on March 3.
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