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Poll verdict in 3 states today

Feb. 27: Will the Reds retain their last remaining bastion in the country? Can Neiphiu Rio perform the hattrick? Can the new kid on the block, the National People’s Party, dislodge the Congress in Meghalaya?

The answers to these and many others, now etched in the memory of the electronic voting machines (EVMs), will tumble out tomorrow as counting is held for the Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya Assembly elections.

By all accounts, if other things remain equal, the results are expected by afternoon for the three 60-seat Assemblies.

Elections in Tripura were held on February 14, while those in Meghalaya and Nagaland were held on February 23.

Apprehending a hung house, the ruling Naga People’s Front (NPF) and the main opposition party in Nagaland, the Congress, have already started contacting Independent candidates in the hope of winning them over to their sides in the event of no party getting a majority.

Both the parties are, however, putting up a brave front saying they will be able to form the government on their own strength.

Chief minister Neiphiu Rio was hopeful of his party crossing the 30-figure mark. “We will get a majority to form the government,” he said. At present, it has 35 seats while the Congress has 18 and Independents seven.

“We are hopeful of forming the next government,” echoed PCC president S.I. Jamir, who has contested from Dimapur-II constituency. He said the party was also in touch with Independents, the NCP and other like-minded parties like the RJD.

Counting, which is slated to commence from 8am, is expected to be over by early afternoon. “If there is no major glitch,” an election office source said, adding that all necessary measures have been taken to ensure everything goes off smoothly. “We have taken all possible steps,” he said.

Both the NPF and the Congress have contested in 59 seats, the BJP in 11, the NCP in 15, the JD (U) in three, the RJD in two and the United Naga Democratic Party in one. There are 38 Independents in the ring in Nagaland.

The chief electoral officer of Tripura, Ashutosh Jindal, said, “If things go smoothly, the counting should be over latest by noon.” Chief secretary S.K. Panda, accompanied by director-general of police S.K. Sinha, superintendents of police, district magistrates of respective eight districts and SDOs of respective 17 subdivisional headquarters have visited the counting centres and taken stock of the situation.

Security has been beefed up all over the state in view of the counting of ballots as the state’s 856km-long border will remain sealed tomorrow. Prohibitory orders under Section 144 have been imposed all over the state to tackle the situation arising from counting of ballots and its aftermath.

Both the ruling Left Front and the Opposition Congress-INPT combine are hopeful of achieving power. While CPM party secretary Bijan Dhar said the Left Front will return to power with “more votes and more seats”, PCC president Sudip Roy Barman said the Congress-INPT combine will win a “comfortable majority” by capturing at least 36 of the 60 Assembly seats. At present, the Left Front has 49 seats while the Congress-INPT combine has 11.

Tripura chief minister Manik Sarkar will grace the office for the fourth consecutive term if the Left Front wins the elections.

For tomorrow’s D-day, the Meghalaya election machinery has assured the people that vigil will be maintained to thwart any form of violence.

With 20 companies of central paramilitary forces in addition to thousands of men and women in uniform from the state police, chief electoral officer Prashant Naik does not foresee any violent reaction from any quarter. “But strict vigil will be maintained across the state especially in areas considered to be vulnerable to violence,” he added.

Counting will be held in 13 centres — one for each of the 11 districts and two in Sohra and Mairang civil subdivisions where an estimated 2,000 officials will be involved in the process.

The exercise will simultaneously commence at 8am and the results for all the 60 Assembly seats will be known by noon.

For the 15 constituencies in East Khasi Hills, counting will be held at Polo ground while for the 11 constituencies in West Garo Hills, it will be conducted at Tura.

Naik hoped the counting day would pass off peacefully like the polling day where no violence took place. “I place on record my sincere gratitude to the people of the state, the security forces and the media for having assisted us in ensuring that the voting day went off peacefully, freely and fairly,” he said.

After counting, the EVMs will still be kept in the strongroom in case a dispute arises, which the courts would need to adjudicate within six months from the day the results are declared.