New Delhi: Three north-eastern states will get new governments today. A 47-year-old Congressman is struggling to retain power in Meghalaya, while two veterans attempt to get another shot at forming government in Nagaland and Tripura.
Counting of votes began at 8 am in all the three states.
In Meghalaya, the Congress's Mukul Sangma is tasked with leading his party to another victory in the face of some fierce opposition from old warhorse PA Sangma, who quit Sharad Pawar's Nationalist Congress Party last year to form the National People's Party.
In the maze of coalition politics that is Meghalaya, the 65-year-old Purno Sangma has the ability to gather in one fold all anti-Congress parties in the state. His party has also been negotiating with some Congress allies who participate in the Mukul Sangma government. Small parties and Independents are, as always, expected to play a significant role in deciding who forms government.
Mr Sangma aligned with the BJP-led NDA during the presidential elections last year when he challenged and lost to Pranab Mukherjee, whose candidacy was backed by the NCP, which partners the Congress in the UPA government.
The Congress claims the PA Sangma disruption factor will be limited only to his area, the West Garo Hills and insists that he will not make a dent in Congress votes in other districts.
In Nagaland, Neiphiu Rio of the Naga People's Front or NPF is aiming for a third term as Chief Minister in an election marred by allegations of use of money power. Mr Rio's home minister Imkong L Imchen was among several senior politicians allegedly caught with over a crore of rupees and even arms. The NPF is in a direct contest with the Congress in Nagaland, where the main election issue is the integration of Naga dominated regions. A bloody insurgency had raged on the issue for over 30 years, and many people died, till insurgent outfits in the state signed ceasefire agreements with the Centre starting 1996. But no permanent solution has been found yet.
Corruption and development are the other big issues expected to have influenced voting in a state where even good roads are rare.
In Tripura, the CPM is banking on 64-year-old Manik Sarkar to work some magic again and ensure that it keeps its hold on the Left's last bastion in the country. The Left has been in power in Tripura for 20 consecutive years now, with Mr Sarkar at the helm for three of those four terms.
The Chief Minister is seen as a very honest man; he is known to have a bank balance lower than that of any other chief minister in the country.
The Left front has campaigned in these elections highlighting the development work of its government, especially in rural areas and has also emphasised that militancy has been on the wane for some years now in Mr Sarkar's regime. What is expected to hurt the government is the high rate of unemployment stemming from the fact that there is no major industry in the state.
In Tripura too the ruling party is in a direct contest with the Congress, which has been bogged down by internal feuds.