Elections 2018: EC announces poll dates for Tripura, Meghalaya, Nagaland

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New Delhi: The electoral process in three north-eastern states was set in motion on Thursday, with the Election Commission of India announcing the schedule for assembly polls in Tripura, Meghalaya and Nagaland.

Tripura will go to the polls on 18 February, followed by Nagaland and Meghalaya on 27 February.

Vote-counting will take place in all three states on 3 March.

The model code of conduct came into force in all three states with the announcement of the electoral schedule, chief election commissioner Achal Kumar Joti told reporters.

He also said a voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT), which allows voters to ascertain that their vote has gone to the intended candidate, will be used in the three elections.

“VVPATs along with EVMs (electronic voting machines) shall be used in all the polling stations of all the three states to enhance transparency and credibility of the election,” the chief election commissioner said.

The terms of the assemblies in Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura end on 6, 13 and 14 March, respectively.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government is trying to widen its political footprint in the North-East after forming governments in Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh; it is part of the ruling alliances in Sikkim and Nagaland as well.

The Congress party’s hold on the North-East region, once its stronghold, has been pried loose over the past few years.

The election in Tripura is crucial for the Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPM, because that’s the only state other than Kerala where the CPM-led Left Front is in power.

Politically, the elections in the region are crucial for both the key national players; out of the total 25 Lok Sabha seats in the eight north-eastern states, the BJP and Congress party have eight seats each.

“In terms of their representation in Lok Sabha, the three states are small but elections to their legislative assemblies are significant not just for these states but for North-East politics on the whole,” said Sukhendu Debbarma, a professor in the department of history at Tripura University.

“Meghalaya has been with the Congress and Tripura has been dominated by Left parties. These elections are interesting because we have a new national party, BJP, entering electorally in these states. BJP’s aim is to hold political control of North-East,” he added.

While the Congress party is in power in Meghalaya under chief minister Mukul Sangma, the Nagaland People’s Front (NPF) is the incumbent in Nagaland under chief minister T.R. Zeliang. CPM’s chief minister Manik Sarkar is seeking a fifth consecutive term for himself in Tripura.

The electoral outcome in Meghalaya, where the Congress has been battling internal troubles, is critical for the party.

In Tripura, the Congress is confronting erosion of its organizational strength and electoral support base.

The Left Front faces potential anti-incumbency in Tripura, which will witness its first multi-cornered electoral contest. The Left Front is pitted against the Congress, its traditional arch rival in the state, as well as the BJP and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress (TMC).

“In my opinion, the contest in Tripura is largely between CPM and BJP. Congress is reduced to a marginal player with most of its leaders shifting to TMC and eventually to BJP,” Sukhendu Debbarma said.livemint