Alcoholics and ‘encroacher’ elephants have joined militants and miscreants in adding sensitivity to certain polling stations as about 1.5 million voters in Meghalaya and nearly 1.2 million voters in Nagaland prepare to exercise their franchise on Saturday.
The assemblies in these two northeastern states have 60 seats each.
Election officials in Meghalaya said 20 of 2,485 polling stations in the state have been marked sensitive owing to the drinking habits of people in the area. The categorisation was based on ‘nuisance’ during past elections.
Instances of frequent elephant raids and encroachment on human settlements have also made 194 polling stations sensitive in five districts of Meghalaya. Most of these jumbo-sensitive stations are along the India-Bangladesh border.
“This is indeed an elephantine problem. We hope the wild elephants follow the model code of conduct,” said Meghalaya’s chief electoral officer P Naik.
The state’s principal chief conservator of forests VK Natalya said forest guards along with trained elephants will be at hand to drive away wild elephants. They will be helped by local tribesmen.
Besides, 184 polling stations have been marked sensitive due to a history of group clashes.
In Nagaland too, the possibility of militants on ceasefire mode interfering with the election process has seen the deployment of 230 companies of Central paramilitary forces.
“The heavy security cover is because three-fourths of the polling stations have been hypersensitive (662 out of total 2,023) and sensitive (821),” chief electoral officer J Alam said.