KOHIMA/SHILLONG, Feb 22 (agencies): Election officials and security forces were in place Friday to oversee assembly elections in Nagaland and Meghalaya taking place on Saturday.
The unresolved Naga issue and economic progress are some of the major issues dominating Nagaland, where the Naga People`s Front (NPF) headed by Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio has been in power for a decade.
Political stability is the slogan of all parties in the hill state of Meghalaya, where the Congress is making another bid for power, that has had 23 chief ministers since it was carved out of Assam in 1972.
A total of 188 candidates, including only two women, are in the fray to get elected to the 60-member Nagaland assembly with forty-nine of the 60 outgoing legislators are seeking re-election.
The ruling NPF has fielded candidates in all 60 seats while the main opposition Congress has put up 57.
One third of the 60 constituencies will witness straight fights between the NPF and Congress.
The Bharatiya Janata Party, which won two seats in 2008, has 11 candidates. The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), which has two members in the outgoing assembly, has 15 contenders.
According to Chief Electoral Officer J. Alam, 1.1 million people, including 589,505 women, are eligible to vote in 2,023 polling stations.
The NPF has promised to find a durable and honourable settlement to the Naga issue. The Congress too wants a lasting solution to the country`s oldest insurgency.
The National Socialist Council of Nagaland entered into a ceasefire with New Delhi in 1997.
Meghalaya has repeatedly seen fractured mandates, leading to volatile coalition governments.
A total of 345 candidates, including 122 independents, are in the fray now. For its 60 seats, the ruling Congress has fielded candidates in all constituencies followed by the United Democratic Party (UDP) – 50 seats.
The Purno Sangma-led Nationalist People`s Party (NPP) has 32 candidates while the NCP will contest in 21 seats. “I am confident the people will give a clear mandate to the Congress,” Chief Minister Mukul Sangma said.
Not just the Congress, major regional groupings are also harping on the need for political stability to ensure economic development.
The UDP, a key ally in the outgoing Congress-led coalition government, is confident of ousting the Congress.
Authorities are not taking any chances following the 36-hour shutdown called by the outlawed Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council protesting against the elections. Counting of votes will take place on February 28 along with that of Tripura, which saw elections earlier this month.