Nagaland vote Wednesday, Congress take on regional combine

March 4th, 2008 - 4:49 pm ICT by admin  

Kohima, March 4 (IANS) Nagaland goes to the polls Wednesday to elect a new 60-member assembly with the Congress party and the Nagaland People’s Front (NPF)-led regional combine the main challengers for power. A total of 1.3 million voters are eligible to decide the fate of 218 candidates. These include 60 from the Congress, 56 of NPF, 23 from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), 25 from the Rashtriya Janata Dal and eight from the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).

The counting of votes will take place Friday.

Although the two main Naga rebel groups, the Isak-Muivah and Khaplang factions of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN), have a truce pact with the central government, the authorities are not taking any chances.

“We have deployed 168 additional paramilitary companies for election duty and also kept two MI-17 helicopters ready to rush Rapid Deployment Force personnel to remote areas if necessary,” a police spokesman said.

On Monday, two people were killed in Mokokchung district when supporters of NPF attacked Congress workers in village Longkhum. The attackers reportedly used sophisticated weapons.

A Congress supporter was killed in Dimapur, Nagaland’s commercial hub, in a separate incident Monday.

The Congress is making a desperate bid to come back to power. The NPF-led Democratic Alliance of Nagaland (DAN) ruled the hill state until the government of Neiphiu Rio was dismissed and President’s rule imposed in January.

The Congress is trying to capitalise on Naga sentiments by promising in its election manifesto that if voted to power, it would push the demand for integration of Naga inhabited areas in the northeast to the state of Nagaland.

The rebel NSCN-IM is also backing the demand. But Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh are bitterly opposed to this.

The NPF has been telling the voters that the Congress rule in the country is on the wane.

“The Congress is ruling in only six states in India. The rest are being ruled by regional forces,” former chief minister and NPF leader Rio said.

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