Nagaon, Nov. 26: The first phase of elections to the North Cachar Hills Autonomous Council ended peacefully today, much to the relief of the district administration that had made extensive security arrangements fearing militant attacks.
Nearly 80 per cent of the voters stood in the warm afternoon sunshine to choose their representatives, taking some of the chill out of the bulletproof armour the hills were made to don.
Preparations for elections to the autonomous district council began under the shadow of the gun after Darbitham Hmar, a Congress candidate from Lower Kharthong constituency was gunned down by militants at Redjol when he was returning from an election rally on November 3.
Following the killing, electioneering was reduced to a few banners and posters, with none of the political leaders willing to venture out for fear of further attacks.
Candidates of the Congress and BJP-Autonomous State Demand Committee were even provided with bullet-proof jackets and caps, which they were asked to wear when they ventured out.
Tepid as the campaigning may have been, the turnout today made election officials happy. Though there were not many voters when polling began, the number surged from 25 per cent to 69 per cent between 11am and 2pm, said an official at the NC Hills election office.
“As the majority of today’s 86 polling centres are in far-flung areas, we hope the polling personnel will reach the district headquarters within 24 hours on completion of their duty,” the official said.
North Cachar Hills additional superintendent of police (headquarters) P. Kar confirmed that there has been no untoward incident during the polls. “Under the cover of unprecedented security blanket, the first phase of elections went off smoothly. We hope for the same during the second phase on December 1.”
Poll pundits say the fight at Harangajao, Gunjung and Gorompani, which went to polls today, will be significant. ASDC district unit president and former Rajya Sabha member Prakanta Warissa is contesting from Gunjung and Harangajao.
The Congress has never lost the polls, barring once in 1954. Its fate will be decided on December 1, during the second phase of polling in 12 constituencies — including Haflong, Mahur, Dautuhaja, Maibong East, Maibong West, Kalachand, Wajau and Hajadisa.