Assembly election results: Change or status quo? People’s verdict in Tripura, Meghalaya and Nagaland out on Saturday
All the three states have 60-members assemblies but polling took place in only 59—after the deaths of candidates in Meghalaya and Tripura and the unopposed election of former chief minister Neiphiu Rio of Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) in Nagaland.Meghalaya Elections 2018 Updated: Mar 02, 2018 21:48 IST
The exit polls have given their verdicts, but the mood of voters in Tripura, Meghalaya and Nagaland will be revealed only on Saturday when the counting of votes for the three northeastern states, which went to polls last month, takes place.
Experts say anti-incumbency could be a major factor as the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Front has been in power in Tripura since 1993, Congress has been ruling Meghalaya since 2008 and Naga People’s Front (NPF) in Nagaland since 2003.
Moreover, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) -- a minor player till 2013 in these three states -- is expected to do exceedingly well and could even upset the entrenched players.
All the three states have 60-members assemblies but polling took place in only 59—after the deaths of candidates in Meghalaya and Tripura and the unopposed election of former chief minister Neiphiu Rio of Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) in Nagaland.
Tripura, which went to polls on February 18, recorded over 91% polling. The figures for Meghalaya and Nagaland, where voting took place on February 27, was nearly 85% and 80% respectively.
The results for the assembly elections in the three northeastern states would be available on the Election Commission of India website.
Red vs saffron in Tripura
In Tripura, chief minister Manik Sarkar is attempting a fifth consecutive term in office. The CPI(M)-led Left Front is expecting Sarkar’s clean image and performance would help them cross the halfway mark and more.
Unlike previous elections when the contest was between the Left Front and Congress, this time it’s a straight fight between the Left Front and the BJP-Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT) alliance.
“We are confident of returning to power again. Our results will be better than what the exit polls claim,” said CPI(M) state secretary Bijan Dhar.
Two exit polls have tipped the BJP-IPFT combine to win a clear majority while another said it will be a close fight with the Left having an edge.
“BJP is confident of uprooting the 25-year-old Marxist rule from Tripura. People want change and they will bring us to power,” the party’s Tripura unit chief Biplab Deb said.
In 2013, the CPI(M) had won 49 seats, Congress 10 and Communist Party of India in one. The BJP had failed to win a single seat.
Three-cornered fight in Meghalaya
As per exit polls, the race is expected to be very close in Meghalaya—with National People’s Party (NPP) likely to emerge as the single largest party.
The regional party, which is an ally of the National Democratic Alliance or NDA at the Centre, contested the Meghalaya elections without any pre-poll tie-up with the BJP. It had won just two seats in 2013.
The BJP’s total vote share was just 1.27% five years ago and all its 13 candidates forfeited their deposits. This time, the saffron party has fielded 47 candidates and hopes to be part of the next government.
“People came out in large numbers across Meghalaya to vote for change. We are confident of a non-Congress government this time in the state,” Shibun Lyngdoh, Meghalaya unit president of BJP, said.
If no party wins a clear majority, the BJP and NPP could come together to form a government. There’s also a likelihood of Congress forging alliances with other regional parties and Independent candidates to stop the BJP and NPP.
Congress is hoping the well-attended rallies and road shows of party president Rahul Gandhi would help it cross the tally of 29 it managed in 2013 polls.
“We will again emerge as the single largest party and are confident of forming the government on our own,” Vincent H Pala, Congress’s working president for Meghalaya, said.
The United Democratic Party (UDP), Hill State People’s Democratic Party (HSPDP) and Garo National Council (GNC), which won 13 seats in 2013, and Independent candidates could prove to be decisive in government formation.
Friends turned foes in Nagaland
Nagaland saw over 90% polling in 2013 but this time, however, the figure was nearly 10% less due to either voter apathy or poll-related violence which claimed one life and injured three.
The battle here is between the ruling Naga People’s Front and an alliance comprising newly-formed Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) and the BJP.
Earlier this month, the BJP severed its 15-year-old alliance with NPF and joined hands with NDPP. The saffron party contested from 20 seats and NDPP from the rest 40.
The BJP had fielded 11 candidates in 2013 but secured just one seat and 1.75% of the total votes in that election with eight candidates forfeiting their deposits.
The exit polls say the BJP-NDPP combine will form the next government, but if NPF does well and manages to cobble up an alliance with Congress, NPP and others—the story could be different.
“We expect to get more than 10 seats and form the next government with NDPP. The NPF is not confident and hence is talking about stitching up post-poll alliances,” V Lhoungu, BJP’s Nagaland unit chief, said.
The NPF, with 47% vote share and 38 seats, retained power easily in 2013. But having lost the BJP as an ally and many party leaders joining the NDPP—the battle won’t be an easy one this time.
“We expect to win 25-27 seats. The NPF alone might not be able to form the government, but we hope to retain power with the support of the NPP, which could get four to six seats. We are keeping options open. A lot will depend on how the NPP and Congress fare in Meghalaya,” NPF spokesperson Sebastian Zumvu said.
Like in Meghalaya, Independents, who secured 17.75% votes and won from seven seats in 2013, could prove crucial in Nagaland too.
However, the poll outcome notwithstanding, it would be interesting to see if Nagaland is able to elect its first woman legislator this time. There were five women candidates among the 195 in the fray.