2018 will be a defining year for the political dynamics in the country, with many states gearing up for upcoming Legislative Assembly elections.
First in the race are the northeastern states of Meghalaya, Nagaland, and Tripura, whose dates for election have finally been announced by the Election Commission of India after much delay. While February 18 has been finalised for Tripura, Meghalaya and Nagaland will be holding their round of elections on February 27 simultaneously.
The elections will be held in two phases, of which the results will be released on March 3 for all the three states.
With different parties eyeing the northeast as the next big frontier to extend their political reach, this will be the first time that the elections in the region would be closely followed as a critical precursor to the 2019 national elections and subsequent government formation.
Here is everything you need to know about the highly anticipated elections of the triad states of Northeast:
1. The incumbent assembly tenure in Meghalaya, Nagaland, and Tripura will end on March 6, 13 and 14 respectively. Each of these states has a 60-member assembly.
2. Electronic voting machines (EVM) and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) will be implemented in all three states, for which first level checks have already concluded. The model code of conduct has already become effective in these states starting Thursday.
3. Since its formation in 1970, the VVPAT machines will be implemented in Meghalaya for the first time, where the voters had been using the ballot paper-based method until now.
4. To prevent any form of disturbance before the polls, the ECI has asked Assam Rifles, India’s oldest paramilitary force, to reinforce its stronghold along the 1643-km-long Indo-Myanmar border in Nagaland. The move has been forwarded by the body, keeping the state’s insurgent unrest and cross-border militant infiltration in mind.
5. In another first, Meghalaya will have 60 Pink booths for the convenience of women voters who find it difficult to go out and vote. Managed by women staff, the booths will be placed by the EC in every constituency as a measure to increase the participation amidst the female population.
6. This will also be the year, where as many as 86,890 voters in Meghalaya aged between 18 and 19 years would be exercising their right to franchise for the first time. Interestingly, the state has 133 youngsters who were born on January 1, 2000, and would be voting for the first time – the so-called ‘Millennium voters’. To further encourage all of these first-time voters, the EC plans to felicitate them on National Voters Day on January 25.
7. To ensure a fair and free as well as to put an end to electoral rigging, the EC would be live monitoring the elections across the three states through webcast and CCTV cameras connected to respective states’ Election Commission’s website.
8. In Meghalaya, around 193 polling booths across 11 districts have been identified that will have direct webcasting to be visible at the Chief Electoral Officer or District Electoral Officer and Election Commission of India.