Heavy polling in Nagaland marred by violence

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Kohima, Feb 27 (IANS) Heavy polling of over 56 per cent was recorded in the first five hours in assembly elections in Nagaland on Tuesday which was marred by a clash between supporters of the ruling NPF and the BJP which claimed a life and left two persons injured.

Election Commission officials here said more than 56 per cent of the total 11.70 lakh voters exercised their franchise till 1 p.m. in voting that will continue till 4 p.m.

The clashes between workers of the Naga People’s Front and the Bharatiya Janata Party were reported in Zunheboto district, where one person was shot dead, the official said.

“Initially, some people were preventing voters from entering the polling station. Then another group came and the clashes erupted in Akuluto assembly constituency,” Nagaland Police chief Rupin Sharma told IANS.

“The two groups indulged in firing, which compelled the police to open fire. As of now, we are not able to ascertain the source and cause of the injuries,” Sharma said.

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He said police reinforcements were rushed to the area to control the situation.

Chief Electoral Officer Abhijit Sinha said polling resumed in Akuluto assembly constituency under strict observation.

Before the polling process commenced at 7 a.m., one person was injured when a bomb went off at a polling station at 5.45 a.m., and a mob destroyed a Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machine in Tizit constituency in the eastern part of the state.

However, Sinha said polling has resumed and was going on smoothly in the affected polling stations.

“There are also reports of some stray incidents but voting is going on peacefully so far and the enthusiasm has been very encouraging in some areas,” he said.

Aam Aadmi Party candidate for Nagaland’s Ghaspani-I assembly seat, Akavi N. Zhimomi, has alerted the EC that “one man-one vote is not being practised in many polling stations”, particularly in booths of Kiyezhe-B area.

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“I have seen this with my own eyes,” Zhimomi said.

Three-time Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio of the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDDP) has been declared elected unopposed from the Northern Angami-II constituency after his lone rival candidate Chupfuo Angami of the ruling NPF withdrew his nomination on February 12.

The newly floated NDPP has stitched an alliance with the BJP and the two are contesting 40 and 20 assembly seats, respectively.

However, incumbent Chief Minister T.R. Zeliang voiced confidence that the NPF will retain power in Nagaland.

“We are confident that we will emerge single-largest party on March 3 when the votes will be counted. We will retain and lead the government,” Zeliang told IANS.

The run-up to the polls saw several twists and turns, with the Core Committee of Nagaland Tribal Hohos and Civil Organisations (CCNTHCO) demanding a solution to the vexed Naga problem before the elections.

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Sinha said the polling time in 103 polling stations spread over six districts will be from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., while the polling time for the remaining 2,053 polling stations is 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Of the 2,156 polling stations, 1,062 are critical, 530 vulnerable and 564 normal polling stations, he said.

Over 15,000 government employees will be on poll duty and there will be 177 all-women polling stations across 25 constituencies in the state.

Sinha said there are 55 election observers, including 22 general and expenditure observers each and 11 police observers, besides 442 micro observers.

–IANS

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