GUWAHATI, Feb 27
A largely peaceful voting in the Assembly polls with a turnout of over 82 per cent was reported from Nagaland, which was earlier a hotbed for militants, till 5 pm on Monday, an official said.
However, stone pelting and blank firing caused tension in the Bhandari Assem- bly constituency in Wokha district.
A tenuous ceasefire prevails in the State for more than two decades now as peace talks are continuing with NSCN (IM) and other groups and the Gentral Government.
Voting began at 7 am with over 13 lakh electors set to decide the electoral fate of 183 candidates. Long queues were seen in front of polling stations since 7 am when voting began.
Polling percentage was 73.65 till 3 pm and voting was peaceful, barring a few incidents, the Election Commission official said.
The nominees are contesting in 59 out of 60 Assembly seats, as the Akuluto seat in Zunheboto district was won uncontested by BJP candidate and sitting MLA Kazheto Kinimi.
Voting was scheduled to end at 4 pm, while counting of votes will be on March 2.
Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio exercised his franchise around 11.45 am at his native village in Touphema in Northern Angami-II seat, along with his wife and three daughters.
Rio, who is seeking re-election for the seventh consecutive term from the seat, exuded confidence that the NDPP-BJP alliance will return to power with a massive win.
The Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) and the BJP are contesting the polls on a 40:20 seat-sharing arrangement.
The CM also appealed to voters, particularly those who are eligible to exercise their franchise for the first time, to participate in the festival of democracy.
"In Nagaland, people want the solution to the Naga issue, permanent peace and development, he said.
Asked if a timeframe would be declared to end the impasse over the Naga peace talks, Rio said the NSCN-IM and the Working Committee of Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs) had signed separate agreements but a "solution could not be achieved because they were not together".
As the two of them came together and made a joint declaration on January 14 that they would work together to uphold the historical rights of the Nagas and protect their tradition, culture and identity, it has given us more hope that the issue may get resolved at the earliest," Rio said.
On the demand of the Eastern Nagaland Peoples' Organisation (ENPO) for a separate statehood, Rio said the Centre had invited them for discussion and made them understand that their demands would be considered after the Assembly elections.
The ENPO has withdrawn its election boycott call and "polls are now being held peacefully", he said.
The Congress, which ruled the State till 2003 and does not have any member in the current House, has fielded 23 aspirants.
The NDPP-BJP combine is seeking a mandate for the second term, with Neiphiu Rio as the chief ministerial candidate of the alliance.
The NPF, which won 26 seats in the last Assembly polls, has fielded candidates in 22 seats, but one of them withdrew, leaving 21 in the fray.
Nineteen nominees are contesting as Independents.
The electors include 6,47,523 male and 6,49,876 female voters, who are eligible to exercise their franchise in 2,291 polling stations.
76 pc in Meghalaya
Nearly 76 per cent of 21.6 lakh electors exercised their franchise till 4 pm in the Meghalaya Assembly elections, as polling remained largely peaceful since morning, officials said on Monday.
Polling began in 59 of the 60 Aassembly constituencies in the northeastern state at 7 am.
Voting has been peaceful with long queues at several polling stations, an election official said.
He also said "no untoward incident" has been reported thus far.
"Malfunctioning of EVMs came to the fore at a few polling booths, but those were later fixed. Polling is being held in a free and fair manner," the official said.
Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma and leader of Opposition and TMC member Mukul Sangma were seen standing in the queue to cast vote in their respective constituencies.
Polling was held at 3,419 stations to seal the electoral fate of 369 candidates.
Voting continued till 4 pm.
The ruling National People's Party is fighting to retain power while the BJP, the Trinamool Congress and other regional parties are vying to bring about a change in Government in Meghalaya.
Thirty-six of the 369 candidates are women, with the largest number of 10 being fielded by the Congress.
Over 19,000 polling personnel and 119 companies of CAPFs have been deployed, the election official said.
Conrad K Sangma is contesting from the South Tura constituency, where he is pitted against militant-turned-politician Bernard Marak, while Mukul Sangma is contesting from two seats Songsak and Tikrikilla. His wife DD Shira is also in the fray.
The Congress and the BJP are contesting 59 seats, while the NPP has put up nominees in 56 constituencies, the TMC in 57 and the UDP in 46.
PTI and agencies