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Exit polls: BJP has edge in Nagaland, Tripura; hung House in Meghalaya

ByUtpal Parashar and Alice Yhoshu, Guwahati/kohima
Feb 28, 2023 03:16 AM IST

The BJP and its allies held the edge in two of the three northeastern states that went to the polls this month, Nagaland and Tripura, but a hung assembly was a distinct possibility in the third state, Meghalaya, a clutch of exit polls predicted on Monday.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies held the edge in two of the three northeastern states that went to the polls this month, Nagaland and Tripura, but a hung assembly was a distinct possibility in the third state, Meghalaya, a clutch of exit polls predicted on Monday.

People stand in a queue outside a polling booth in Meghalaya’s Ri Bhoi district on Monday. (PTI)

Meghalaya and Nagaland went to the polls on Monday, recording provisional turnouts of 74.32% and 84.69%, respectively. Tripura, where 87.63% of the electorate exercised their franchise, voted on February 16. The results will be announced on March 2. All three states have 60 seats in the assembly.

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Also read: Nagaland assembly polls: Incidents of violence reported in Tyui constituency

In Nagaland, the BJP and its ally National Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) were seen as comfortably crossing the halfway mark with the Naga People’s Front (NPF) likely to end up in single digits. All four exit polls predicted a big victory for the NDPP-BJP alliance in a state where the assembly was without an opposition in the previous term.

Chief minister Neiphiu Rio expressed hope that the NDPP-BJP alliance will win by a record margin and form the next government with ease. He also hoped for an early solution to the decades-old Naga political issue.

“We want a solution to the Naga political issue and permanent peace and all-round development of the state. The coming together of the National Socialist Council of Nagalim-Isak Muivah (NSCN-IM) and Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs) gives us more hope for the Naga issue. Nobody can set a deadline, but we are hopeful that things will go smoother this time,” he said.

In Tripura, which witnessed a three-cornered contest this time, three exit polls predicted that the BJP and its ally, Indigenous Peoples Front of Tripura (IPFT), will be very close to or cross the majority mark on its own, with the Left-Congress combine left far behind. One poll, TimesNow-ETG research, said a hung assembly was a possibility with the BJP as the single-largest party.

All four exit polls said that the new player in the state, the TIPRA-Motha, was likely to make an impressive debut and snag a large chunk of seats in the tribal-dominated districts.

If these trends hold, it will be a consecutive second victory for the BJP, which uprooted 25 years of Left rule in 2018 and replaced its chief minister last year in a bid to shake off anti-incumbency.

Congress leader Sudip Roy Barman said: “ We ( CPM-Congress combine) would win at least 40 seats. Our primary aim is to remove the BJP. The people are waiting for a new morning. The current ruling party will fall on March 2 and a new government will be formed in the state.”

In Meghalaya, pollsters predicted a fierce contest. Three exit polls said that the ruling National People’s Party (NPP) was likely to emerge as the single largest party in a hung assembly scenario, but stop short of the halfway mark.

Three exit polls also said that the Trinamool Congress (TMC) – which is now being led in the state by former chief minister Mukul Sangma – may emerge as the second largest outfit, followed by the Congress and the BJP. Mukul Sangma led 12 Congress lawmakers to leave the Congress in 2021 and joined the TMC. The United Democratic Party may also emerge as a decisive factor in a close election, the polls hinted.

Also read: Meghalaya election 2023: First 5 voters given mementoes to encourage early hours voting

Chief minister and NPP president Conrad Sangma said that there is a positive wave in favour of his party and expressed confidence of coming back to power.

“This time we are seeing a wave throughout Meghalaya in favour of NPP. So, it’s not just in the Garo Hills, but we are seeing a positive wave for us in the Khasi Hills as well,” he said.

To be sure, exit polls are not always accurate and have often got the verdict wrong in earlier elections, especially in states with diverse populations and communities. But they are useful in identifying trends.

This round of assembly elections is important because they mark the beginning of an almost continuous poll season, and will be followed by elections in six other states this year, and the general elections in 2024.

Voting took place in 59 of the total 60 seats in Meghalaya and Nagaland on Monday, after polling was cancelled in one seat in the former due to the death of a candidate. In Nagaland’s Akuluto, the BJP candidate was declared uncontested.

In Nagaland, nearly 84.69% of the 1,300,000 eligible voters exercised their franchise till 6pm, said polling officials said. Officials said the figure is expected to go up once all votes are tabulated. In 2018, the state had recorded 84% polling.

Nagaland Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) V Shashank Shekhar said the exercise was conducted by-and-large peacefully, barring a few incidents of violence in several districts and a road accident where a security personnel lost his life.

Nagaland police nodal officer Limasunep Jamir said clashes between supporters of rival political parties were reported in Mokokchung, Wokha, Mon, Zunheboto and Tseminyu.

In 2018, NDPP-BJP alliance contested the polls with a 40:20 formula (40 seats for the NDPP and 20 for the BJP) and the same arrangement was followed this time. The Congress fielded 23 candidates, the Naga People’s Front (NPF) 22, Lok Janshakti Party (Ram Vilas) 15, Nationalist Congress Party and National People’s Party 12 each.

Nagaland has not elected a woman MLA in its 60-year history. This time, there are only four women candidates in the fray – two from NDPP and one each from the BJP and the Congress.

In Meghalaya, officials said nearly 74.32% of the 2,160,000 eligible voters cast their vote by 5pm. The figure will rise once the final tabulation is done.

In 2018, the state had recorded 87.7% polling. The BJP and the Congress fielded candidates in all 60 seats while the NPP and TMC fielded 57 and 56 candidates, respectively.

“In Meghalaya, the ruling NPP tried to show that a lot was achieved on the ground in the last five years and their campaign focused on that. The BJP campaign picked up pace towards the end and the party used a lot of money and resources to woo voters,” said H Srikanth, professor of political science at Shillong-based North Eastern Hill University (NEHU).

“There was a lot of dance and music and not much focus on real issues by most parties. Important issues like illegal coal mining and the inner line permit got sidelined. Only the Voice of People Party (VPP) and KAM-Meghalaya raised genuine issues, which seemed to have some impact among urban voters,” he added.

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