Will onion prices decide outcome of elections in Nagaland?

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New Delhi, Feb 5: Will onion prices dictate the outcome of Nagaland elections to be held on February 23? With one kg of onion costing Rs 60 in Nagaland, especially in Kohima, the government of Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio is having tears of fears.

Rio heads Nagaland People's Front (NPF) led Democratic Alliance of Nagaland (DAN) and opposed to the Congress. The onion shortage is being informally attributed to problems created by the railways, which is controlled by the Congress. Vegetable merchants allege that Indian Railways has stopped booking the rakes to transport for onion from rest of the country due to the Kumbh Mela pressure.

Even the internal road transport seems to be pushing prices in Nagaland. While prices in Guwahati, from where onion is routed to other north eastern states, is around Rs 25 per kg, the price climbs to Rs 35 in Tripura, Meghalaya and Rs 60 in Nagaland.

Nagaland People

Onion output in Nashik, Maharashtra, has been low this season and whatever is being sent to the northeast takes anywhere between 12 days to 15 days to reach consumers.

The government of Rio is fearing anti-incumbancy factor, since being in power for last 10 years, and also the onions. He recently attacked the Centre with ignoring the Naga political issue and alleged that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh never found time to visit the state.

"The prime minister has not visited our state in the past 10 years. He comes to Congress ruled states Assam and Manipur every alternate month but misses Nagaland," Rio said.

"If they (central Congress leaders) care for the Nagas, why they didn't come here in 10 years? While they have been dragging on the Naga political issue for 15 years without any solutions, they come only during elections and tell big lies," Rio, also the NPF advisor, said.

Atal Behari Vajpayee was the last prime minister to have visited Nagaland in 2003, while AICC president Sonia Gandhi had been in the state for 2008 election campaign.

Meanwhile, the Congress which is contesting 58 seats in the 60-member house has announced candidature of former chief minister S I Jamir from Dimapur-II constituency. The last date of filing nomination was February 6 while scrutiny would be held the next day and last date of withdrawal of nomination was February 9.

Polling under new guidelines:

Election Commission has issued new guidelines to curb the menace of money power during the February 23 Nagaland assembly poll.

As per the new guideline every candidate is required to have a separate bank account for use in all election-related expenditures, said EC Director General for Expenditure Monitoring, P K Dash.

The expenditure ceiling as prescribed by EC is Rs eight lakh by each candidate, he said.

The guidelines were issued following concerns expressed over the problem and requests made by political parties to EC officials during their visit to the state to help check it.

As per the new guidelines there would be a large number of flying squads and static surveillance teams who will not only check the entry of illegal arms or liquor but also cash or gift items for bribing the electorate.

He said the EC would deploy a large number of surveillance teams to videograph all the major expenditures made by the candidates and political parties during the electioneering process.

Border checks:

The Election Commission has told the authorities to beef up border checks in Tripura, Meghalaya and Nagaland.

"The Commission has directed all concerned to take all possible steps to seal the international borders besides deploying additional BSF and Assam Rifles troopers," a poll panel official has told IANS.

Four northeastern states - Tripura, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Assam - share a 1,880-km border with Bangladesh. Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh share a 1,640-km border with Myanmar.

Most of the international border is unfenced and runs through dense forests and mountainous, making it porous, vulnerable and advantageous for terrorists and others.

Tripura (856 km) and Meghalaya (443 km) border Bangladesh. Nagaland has a 215-km border with Myanmar.

Tripura will elect a new assembly Feb 14. Meghalaya and Nagaland will see elections Feb 23.

The EC official said: "The borders of Tripura, Meghalaya and Nagaland with other northeastern states would also be sealed to prevent interstate movement of criminals, militants and other armed goons.

"To seal the borders effectively, adequate para-military troopers - BSF and Assam Rifles -- and other security forces would be deployed along both international and domestic boundaries."

A Tripura police official said over 250 companies of paramilitary forces and state armed forces would make the election incident free.

"Armed police forces of Punjab, Kerala and Mizoram would be deployed in and around the polling stations and counting centres," he told IANS.

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