Kohima: The campaigning for the February 23 elections to the 60-member Nagaland Assembly ended Thursday.
A total of 188 candidates including 39 Independents and two women are in the fray. The electioneering for the polls came to an end at 1600 hours.
Polling will be held from 7 AM till 4 PM on February 23 while counting of votes will be carried out on February 28.
The ruling Naga People`s Front (NPF) is the only party to have fielded candidates in all the 60 seats. Opposition Congress is contesting in 57 constituencies, followed by NCP (15), BJP (11), JD-U (three), RJD (two) and the United Nagaland Democratic Party (one).
A total of 52 MLAs are seeking re-election while 60 candidates are contesting for the first time and 102 had contested unsuccessfully in the 2008 polls.
Prominent candidates include Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio (Northern Angami II), Speaker Kiyanilie Peseyie (Western Angami), Opposition Leader Tokheho Yepthomi (Dimapur III), Congress president SI Jamir (Dimapur II) and former Home Minister Imkong L. Imchen (Koridang).
Of the two women contestants, Rakhila has been fielded by BJP from Tuensang Sadar-II. The other one, Dr Yangerla, is contesting from Mokokchung Town as an independent candidate.
The strength of the electorate is 11,93,438, including 5,89,505 women. As many as 2600 electronic voting machines (EVMs) are being put up in 2023 polling stations in the state, of which 821 have been identified as sensitive and 662 as hyper sensitive.
To conduct free and fair polls, 255 companies of central paramilitary forces have been deployed in the state. A company comprises approximately a hundred personnel.
One third of the constituencies will witness a straight contest.
UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, AICC vice-president Rahul Gandhi, Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde were among the star campaigners for Congress who promised to find a solution of the Naga political issue.
On the other hand, Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio is the overall star campaigner for NPF who hit out at the central leadership for `ignoring` Nagaland and its problems.
NPF got a jolt ahead of the election when Home Minister Imkong L Imchen was arrested on February 18 for allegedly carrying over Rs one crore and arms in his vehicle. He later resigned from his post.
BJP national president Rajnath Singh and senior leader Ravishankar Prasad campaigned for the party candidates.
In the outgoing 11th Nagaland Assembly, ruling NPF has 35 members and the support of six Independents while Congress has 18 seats backed by an Independent.