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Assembly elections: Counting begins in Tripura, Meghalaya, Nagaland

Prohibitory orders are in force near counting centres.  

Counting of votes in three north-eastern states – Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura – began at 8 am on Saturday.

Tripura was the first of these States to go to the polls on February 18 followed by Meghalaya and Nagaland on February 27. Re-polling in 19 booths across the three States due to EVM malfunctioning and violence was over by Friday.

Each of these States has a 60-member Assembly, but election was held in 59. Polling in a seat each in Tripura and Meghalaya was countermanded because of the death of candidate while former Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio was declared winner after his only rival withdrew from the contest.

Mr Rio, representing Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP), quit as Nagaland’s lone Lok Sabha member last month.

The ruling CPI(M) received a setback when its candidate for the Charilam seat, Ramendra Narayan Debbarma, died of cardiac arrest a week before voting day. In Meghalaya, suspected extremists had gunned down Jonathone N. Sangma, the Nationalist Congress Party’s candidate for the Williamnagar seat.

The CPI(M) also lost Khangendra Jamatia, who was seeking re-election from the Krishnapur seat. Mr Jamatia, battling cancer, died at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi on Friday.

Officials said election in Krishnapur will be held again if Mr Jamatia emerges victorious.


Left-Right fight

Mandate 2018 in Tripura has been historic as the leftists and the rightist Bharatiya Janata Party are in a straight fight for the first time. Verdict day, immediately after Holi or festival of colours, has been dubbed as a red versus saffron battle.

Tripura is considered the last of the Left Front bastions in India though Kerala has a Communist government. This, Assam-based political scientist Noni Gopal Mahanta says, is because power in Kerala has changed hands between the Communists and Congress unlike the monopoly the CPI(M) enjoyed in Tripura for 25 years.

The CPI(M) heads the Left Front in Tripura. Its lesser partners are Communist Party of India, Revolutionary Socialist Party of India and Forward Block.

“The red fort has been breached and it is a matter of time before the communists, which used beneficiary schemes and Central government policies only for the party cadres, bite the dust,” Sunil Deodhar, BJP’s prabhari (head) of operations in Tripura, told The Hindu.

Mr Deodhar, a former Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh member, is credited with building the BJP base in Tripura from scratch since 2014. The BJP had only 1.54% votes in the 2013 Assembly polls and 49 of the 50 candidates it fielded that year had lost their deposits.

The BJP had a strategic tie up with the Indigenous People’s Front of Twipra, which fielded candidates in nine of the 20 constituencies reserved for the State’s 19 tribes.

Apart from improving upon the cadre-based network of the CPI(M), the BJP occupied the space of the non-Left parties. More than 40 candidates, including seven MLAs, are from the Congress, which is battling for existence in Tripura.


Regional forces

The Congress is in a similar situation in Nagaland, where it struggled to find candidates. The State’s party unit is unhappy with the High Command for not pushing the party campaign for the 18 candidates in Nagaland.

The BJP too is not a major force in the Christian-majority State where it is viewed as a ‘Hindu party’. The BJP, though, has been part of the ruling coalition headed by Naga People’s Front (NPF), since 2003.

But this time, the BJP aligned with NDPP, a new regional party while keeping its options open for a possible post-poll friendship with “old ally” NPF.

Infighting within the NPF had led to the birth of NDPP last year. Mr Rio, who was the face of NPF for 11 years, joined NDPP before the polls, as did 24 legislators belonging to NPF.


These MLAs were allegedly sidelined by Mr Rio’s successor and current Chief Minister TR Zeliang who has indicated the “cleansing” would help his party retain power. On Friday, Mr Zeliang had met Governor PB Acharya with letters of support from National People’s Party (NPP) and Janata Dal (United).

Exit polls said NPF could be the single largest party in Nagaland. A similar prediction is for the Congress in Meghalaya where no party has won majority in Assembly elections except in 1972 when the now-defunct All Party Hill Leaders’ Conference won 32 seats, one more than the majority mark.

The possibility of a hung House in Meghalaya has made the regional parties – there are six in the fray – important. The BJP is banking on two of them, NPP and United Democratic Party (UDP), which are members of its North East Development Alliance.

The NPP and UDP, though, did not have a pre-poll agreement with BJP, as has usually been the case in Meghalaya.

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Printable version | Apr 17, 2021 9:21:43 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/assembly-elections-counting-begins-in-tripura-meghalaya-nagaland/article22916569.ece

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