Massive turnout in Nagaland by-poll

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Kohima, July 29 (IANS) Balloting in the assembly by-election in Nagaland’s Northern Angami-I constituency passed off peacefully on Saturday, with over 78 per cent of the total 16,235 electorate casting their votes.

“The latest voter turnout recorded till 4.00 p.m. was 78.55 per cent. We are expecting the turnout to touch 79 per cent,” Returning Officer Rajesh Soundararajan told IANS over phone.

He said overall the by-election went off peacefully with “no major incident” during the polling hours.

Soundararajan said VVPAT machines were used in all the 25 polling booths.

There were reports of malfunctioning of VVPAT machines in two polling booths — T. Khel Upper and L. Khel Upper 2 — but those were rectified.

Naga People’s Front president Shurhozelie Liezietsu, whose government was dismissed by Governor P.B. Acharya on July 19 after he failed to prove his majority in the assembly, is in a straight contest against Independent Kekhrie Yhome.

The by-election was necessitated following the resignation of sitting NPF legislator Khriehu Liezietsu on May 24 to enable his father Shurhozelie Liezietsu to contest and enter the assembly in order to continue as Chief Minister.

On February 22, Liezietsu, 80, was forced to come out of retirement from electoral politics to take over as Chief Minister after T.R. Zeliang resigned following violent protest by tribal groups who were opposed to his move to hold civic polls with 33 per cent reservation for women.

Zeliang was sworn in as Chief Minister for the second time on July 19 after 47 legislators, including 36 NPF legislators, four BJP legislators and seven Independent members extended their support.

“I would like not to comment anything on the polling as tall leaders of the NPF have gone against the party (NPF). Only God Knows,” Liezietsu, who had earlier been elected for eight times to the Nagaland assembly, told IANS.

In fact, the NPF had expelled its 20 legislators which include the incumbent Chief Minister Zeliang and suspended 10 legislators from the primary membership of the party for violating the party’s constitution.

Political observers say Liezietsu has an edge over his rival candidate citing that the “sympathy vote” following the dismissal of his nearly five-month-old government.

The counting of votes will take place on August 3.

–IANS

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