N­E ELEC­TIONS: VOT­ING ENDS, EXIT POLLS GIVE BJP AN EDGE

Hindustan Times (Gurugram) - - Front Page - Ut­pal Parashar and David Lait­phlang let­ters@hin­dus­tan­times.com

At least two exit polls have given the Bharatiya Janata Party an up­per hand in Tripura, which has been a Marx­ist strong­hold for 25 years, and in Na­ga­land. In Megha­laya, one es­ti­mate gave Congress the edge while an­other said NPP and BJP may have a post­poll tie-up.

GUWA­HATI/SHILLONG: A man was killed and three oth­ers in­jured in sep­a­rate in­ci­dents of poll-re­lated vi­o­lence in Na­ga­land on Tues­day while Megha­laya wit­nessed a com­par­a­tively peaceful elec­tion day. Polling in the two Chris­tian­ma­jor­ity states be­gan at 7am. Although it was sup­posed to end at 4pm, of­fi­cials per­mit­ted those in queue to cast votes af­ter that.

While 75% vot­ing was re­ported till 5pm in Na­ga­land, the fig­ure for Megha­laya stood at 77% at 11pm. The poll per­cent­age is ex­pected to rise higher once in­puts from re­mote ar­eas are added. Na­ga­land and Megha­laya reg­is­tered 90% and 88% vot­ing re­spec­tively in the 2013 polls.

Polling took place in 59 of the 60 seats in each state this time. While the elec­toral process was can­celled in Megha­laya’s Wil­liamna­gar fol­low­ing the death of NCP can­di­date Jonathone N Sangma and four oth­ers in a bomb blast, Na­ga­land’s north­ern Angami-II was spared a con­test af­ter Na­tion­al­ist Demo­cratic Pro­gres­sive Party (NDPP) leader Neiphiu Rio ben­e­fited from a walkover. The count­ing of votes for the two states will hap­pen along with Tripura on March 3.

The day be­gan with a crude bomb ex­plo­sion near a polling booth at Tizit town in Na­ga­land’s Mon dis­trict around 5.45am. Mon su­per­in­ten­dent of po­lice Vechipa Vise said that although a vil­lage coun­cil mem­ber sus­tained in­juries, polling was un­hin­dered.

At 11.10am, a man was killed and two oth­ers in­jured in clashes be­tween sup­port­ers of the NDPPBJP al­liance and the rul­ing Naga Peo­ple’s Front (NPF) at Aku­luto in Zun­heboto dis­trict. Se­cu­rity per­son­nel opened fire to dis­perse the mob. “The NPF is con­fi­dent of re­turn­ing to power. Talks are also on with the Janata Dal (United) and the Na­tional Peo­ple’s Party to form a coali­tion,” chief min­is­ter TR Zeliang said.

The BJP, which had bro­ken its 15-year-old al­liance with NPF to join hands with the NDPP be­fore the polls, be­lieves dif­fer­ently. “We ex­pect to get more than 10 seats and form the next gov­ern­ment with NDPP,” said V Lhoungu, chief of the party’s Na­ga­land unit.

Polling was de­layed in nearly three dozen booths across Megha­laya due to mal­func­tion­ing of EVM and VVPAT ma­chines. “Nearly 88 VVPATs de­vel­oped tech­ni­cal prob­lems, but the prob­lem was sorted out soon,” said Megha­laya chief elec­toral of­fi­cer FR Kharkon­gor.

“Peo­ple across Megha­laya came out in large num­bers to vote for change. We are con­fi­dent of a non-Congress gov­ern­ment this time,” said Shi­bun Lyn­g­doh, the party’s Megha­laya unit pres­i­dent. But the Congress hopes to stay in power. “We will turn out to be the sin­gle-largest party and form a gov­ern­ment on our own,” said Vin­cent H Pala, party work­ing pres­i­dent for Megha­laya.

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