Voting begins for Nagaland assembly polls

March 5th, 2008 - 10:11 am ICT by admin  

Kohima, March 5 (IANS) Voting began Wednesday in the northeastern state of Nagaland for the 60-member assembly amid tight security with the Congress party and the Nagaland People’s Front (NPF) led regional combine as the main challengers. An election official said people in large numbers attired in their traditional tribal costumes lined up polling booths much before voting began at 7 a.m.

“Voting has begun with people turning up in large numbers already,” a state election official said. The polling ends at 4 p.m.

A total of 1.3 million voters are to decide the fate of 218 candidates - 60 from the Congress, 56 belonging to the NPF, 23 from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), 25 from the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and eight from the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) among others. The counting of votes will take place March 7.

Although the two main Naga rebel groups, the Isak-Muivah and Khaplang factions of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN), are operating a ceasefire with the central government, the authorities are not taking any chances from the security point of view.

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

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

The Congress is trying to capitalize 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.

This demand is incidentally also being pushed by the rebel NSCN-IM, a demand that has been opposed by the governments and groups in states like Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.

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

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