Turnout, till last reports came in, was around 70 per cent in both states, a little less than last time, but could be a key factor in an election that has the ruling party at the centre in a serious bid for power in the northeastern states.
At Akuluto, 132 kilometres from Nagaland's capital Kohima, shocking scenes of a gunfight were witnessed near a polling booth in which one died. The police, which had to open fire to disperse the warring mobs, said how the young man got killed will be clear only after a forensics report. The clash was between supporters of the incumbent Naga People's Front and rival BJP. The victim was an NPF supporter, according to Rupin Sharma, Director General of Police, Nagaland. Besides this fatal clash, at Bhandari 150 km from Kohima, an NPF candidate's bodyguard opened fire allegedly in self-defence. Police are also investigating an improvised explosive device or IED blast near a poll station at Tizit near the Myanmar border.
In Meghalaya, the poll battle was not bloody but equally bitter. The incumbent Congress is ranged against the BJP and the NPP - two parties who are allies in Manipur and at the centre but not in Meghalaya - but they may join hands post elections. The face-off is between incumbent Chief Minister Mukul Sangma and NPP aspirant Conrad Sangma.
In Nagaland, the BJP dumped ally NPF for the NDPP, a new party formed by breakaway NPF leader Neiphiu Rio. The three time chief minister is taking on his old friend and sitting chief minister TR Zeliang.
Turnout in these polls will be key. Last time, Meghalaya saw 87 per cent turnout and Nagaland 90 per cent. On Tuesday, voting was slow in both states as Electronic Voting Machines or EVMs and Voter-verified paper audit trail or VVPATs malfunctioned. They had malfunctioned in Tripura too, that polled on February 18.
Meghalaya Chief Election Officer FR Kharkongor said in Shillong, "There were several EVMs and VVPATs that malfunctioned, there were link errors, we had to send out engineers, some machines were replaced. This slowed the poll process but it picked up. We are getting reports of people who queued up late. They will be allowed to vote so we expect the poll percentage to go up."
For voters, it is a multiple choice poll - national parties or regional parties or alliances. In Nagaland, the Congress is fighting alone in just 18 of 60 seats and the BJP is in 20. In Meghalaya, the Congress wants power back.
First time voter Jelina said, "We are looking for change for good. We want something new to happen. Congress has ruled so many years and have done good but we need more."
IQ Wajiri, a voter in Shillong, said, "The Congress is the grand old party and still present all over the county and I think we can welcome it again."
A common poll issue in both Nagaland and Meghalaya was the BJP's image as a Hindu party, alien to Christian populations in the two states. The church, in Nagaland, did urge voters to vote "wisely" against communal parties. In Meghalaya, the BJP filed a complaint against an FM radio station for alleged propaganda against it on that very score.