Meghalaya, Nagaland polls tomorrow, all eyes on BJP
All eyes will be on the BJP when two Christian-majority states – Meghalaya and Nagaland – go to the polls on Tuesday.
Elections will take place between 7 am and 4 pm. Anti-incumbency will turn out to be a major factor as the Congress (ruling Meghalaya since 2008) and the Naga People’s Front (ruling Nagaland since 2003) take on an aggressive BJP in the two states respectively. Incidentally, the saffron party was only a minor political irritant until five years ago.
Elections will be held for 59 seats each in the two states. The counting of votes is scheduled for March 3, along with Tripura, which went to the polls on February 18. Elaborate arrangements, including security deployment, have been made to ensure seamless polling.
This northeastern state recorded nearly 88% voting in the 2013 polls, when the BJP’s total vote share stood at a mere 1.27%. All the 13 candidates fielded by the party forfeited their deposits, and it managed to garner just 16,800 votes across the state.
This time the saffron party has fielded 47 candidates backed by an aggressive Narendra Modi-led campaign. The Prime Minister dropped by the state twice to woo voters.
The ruling Congress, on the other hand, retained power in 2013 by securing almost 35% votes and winning 29 seats. The party is hoping that well-attended rallies and road shows conducted by president Rahul Gandhi translate into overwhelming voter support again.
The Naga People’s Party (NPP), founded by late speaker PA Sangma, was not much of a threat to the Congress in the previous election. The party, which has a strong presence in Garo Hills, fielded 32 candidates but only two emerged victorious. This time, however, the NPP has fielded 52 candidates and is a strong contender for power. The party is an ally of the NDA government at the Centre, but it has not entered into a pre-poll tie-up with the BJP for the Meghalaya elections.
The three-party alliance of the United Democratic Party, Hill State People’s Democratic Party and the Garo National Council had won 13 seats in 2013. This time, they are contesting from 54 seats.
Independent candidates, on the other hand, won 13 seats five years ago and cornered 27% of the total votes—second only to the Congress. They could play an important role in government formation this time round.
A total of 370 candidates are in the fray in Meghalaya — 32 of them women — for 59 seats. As many as 18.42 lakh voters will exercise their franchise at 3,083 polling stations across the state. Polling in the Williamnagar seat was cancelled following the death of Nationalist Congress Party candidate Jonathone N Sangma in a militant attack.
This state saw over 90% polling in 2013, and the polling percentage is expected to be high this time too. The battle here is between the ruling Naga People’s Front (NPF) and an alliance comprising the newly formed Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) and the BJP.
Earlier this month, BJP severed its 15-year-old alliance with NPF and joined hands with the NDPP. The saffron party is contesting from 20 seats and the NDPP from the remaining 40.
The BJP had fielded 11 candidates in 2013, but secured just one seat and 1.75% of the total votes in the previous election. The Congress, for its part, contested from 56 seats and won eight. However, the party has fielded candidates from only 18 seats this time.
The NPF, with 47% vote share and 38 seats, retained power with ease in 2013. However, now that it has lost BJP as an ally and many party leaders have jumped ship to join the NDPP, the battle is unlikely to be that simple this time.
Independents could prove crucial in Nagaland too. In 2013, they had secured 17.75% votes and won from seven seats.
However, the poll outcome notwithstanding, it would be interesting to see if Nagaland is able to elect its first woman MLA this time. BJP candidate Rakhila had contested from Tuensang Sadar II and secured 21.5% votes in 2013. She is contesting again this time from the same seat, and with Modi addressing a rally in Tuensang, her chances of winning appear bright.
Besides Rahila, there are four other women candidates in the fray this time.
The fate of 195 candidates will be decided in the polls, set to occur in 2,156 stations. There are 11.91 lakh voters in Nagaland.
Though both the states have 60 seats each, elections will be held only in 59 on Tuesday. While polling to one seat in Meghalaya was cancelled following the death of an NCP candidate, the NDPP’s Neiphiu Rio won uncontested from one seat in Nagaland.