A jawan on election duty gets down from a truck in Dimapur on Friday. (PTI)
Kohima, Feb. 22: The Congress’s campaign for wresting power from the Naga People’s Front in Nagaland suffered a jolt a day ahead of polling, with its candidate for Tuensang Sadar-I and sitting MLA P. Chuba Chang passing away here this morning.
The Election Commission has countermanded the polls for the seat and it will now be held within six months.
Chang, who was admitted to the Naga Hospital here since February 15 and shifted to the ICU on February 19, passed away at 7am. He had severe diabetes.
Chang, who was pitted against L. Elam Chang of the NPF, and Toyang Chang (Independent), was considered a sure winner, as he has never lost an election since 1998.
Born on April 25, 1965, he was an active student leader. He became a general secretary of district Congress committee in 1998 and a member of Tuensang Town Committee from 1990. He first contested as an Independent in 1998, was re-elected as an Independent in 2003 and joined the NPF-led Democratic Alliance of Nagaland government as school education minister. In 2008, he got a Congress ticket.
The Congress, while conveying heartfelt condolences to the bereaved family, said the party had not only lost a “hopeful” candidate but a leader from Tuensang district.
Chief minister Neiphiu Rio and other political parties also condoled the death.
After a prayer meeting at the Chang Baptist Church here, the body was flown to Tuensang where a large number of people gathered at the helipad and at his home to pay their last respects. Chuba is survived by his wife, Ajungla, son and daughter.
The shock apart, Nagaland is set for polling tomorrow to decide the fate of 185 candidates. The authorities are making all efforts to ensure a free and fair election to the 60-member Assembly despite reports of violation of the model code of conduct and heavy involvement of militants.
Apprehension was high that elections would again be marred by malpractices like proxy voting and booth capturing, given the fact that Rs 2.9 crore in cash and 42,000 liquor bottles were seized from candidates and others in the run-up to the polls.
The Centre has deployed 255 companies of paramilitary forces in addition to state police, homeguards and village guards for smooth polls. All the 11,359 polling officials have reached the booths and will be manning 2,440 EVMs tomorrow. Assam has alerted security forces on its border with Nagaland.
The Congress has appealed to voters not to indulge in malpractices. So has the Nagaland Baptist Church Council.
Some of the heavyweights in the fray are chief minister Neiphiu Rio, who is pitted against a former truck driver, Kevise Sogotsu, from Northern Angami-II constituency.
Former chief minister K.L. Chishi is in a four-cornered contest from Dimapur-I, while CLP leader Tokheho from Dimapur-II is likely to have a comfortable win against sitting NPF legislator Azheto Zhimomi.
PCC president S.I. Jamir is in a triangular contest from Dimapur-II. Former PCC president K.V. Pusa is in a straight contest with NPF’s Kropol Vitsu from Southern Angami-II, while Lok Sabha MP C.M. Chang is pitted against veteran Congress lawmaker H. Chuba Chang from Noksen seat in Tuensang district. C. Apok Jamir, son of former chief minister S.C. Jamir, is contesting from Mokokchung town constituency.
Two women candidates — Rakhila Lakiumong and Yangerla Ao — are in the fray.