DIMAPUR: Though it was a bright and sunny day, it looked like as though there was a bandh in commercial hub Dimapur. Streets were deserted and markets shut. But the scene at polling stations was completely different.
Unlike 15 years back when Nagas termed assembly polls as “Indian elections“, there was a mad rush at every polling booth. The rush was almost a throwback to the Seventies and Eighties when people queued up for tickets at cinema halls.
An election is no longer perceived as an exercise “imposed” on the people. It is now viewed as an exercise to decide the fate of the state and its people. “I came to vote for the development of Dimapur-II, which is my constituency. What we need is good roads, better drinking water and uninterrupted supply of power,” said 29-year-old I Imchen at Lengrijan.
He said people came out of their homes early in the morning to cast their votes. Though polling began at 7 am, long queues were seen in front of polling stations from 6 am. Security personnel had a tough time handling the long queue of voters.
It was a chaotic scene at Naharbari as voters pushed their way into the government primary school polling station. There were two queues —– one inside the polling station and the other outside for entering the premises. As the gate opened, a Naga woman volunteer shouted, “Only six can enter at a time!”
She took the help of security personnel to count the heads and allowed only six to stand in the queue.
At the Lengrijan Primary School polling station, an Ak-47 wielding CRPF jawan said, “It is better here. I have just come from Srinagar.”
The older generation said they were voting to find a solution to the decades-long Naga problem. The peace talks are the main issue this election and every party has made it their electoral plank. “Our priority is to solve the Naga political issue so that peace returns to the state,” said 53-year-old Inashe Chishi.
Waiting for his turn to vote at the Dimapur stadium polling station, Chishi explained the need to find a respectable solution to the Naga insurgency problem. “We want the new government to address this issue first and help bring peace and development,” he said.
He was voting in Dimapur-I constituency —— the only general seat in Nagaland where 75 per cent of the electorate were non-Nagas.
Asked about insurgency, young voters said the issue is important to all Nagas, but what is more important to them is development and creation of employment opportunities.
Candidates also knew the changing psyche of Nagas. Supporters of different candidates were seen distributing mineral water bottles to voters standing in long queues under the sun to quench their thirst.