Northeast Deserves Appreciation For High Voter Turnout

The 1st phase witnessed around 1,625 candidates (including 134 females) who have sought the mandate from over 166 million voters (including 82 million female, 11,371 third gender and 18 million first-time electorates).
Northeast Deserves Appreciation For High Voter Turnout
Northeast Deserves Appreciation For High Voter Turnout
Nava Thakuria

As the biggest electoral show on the planet began on 19 April, where 969 million Indian eligible voters start exercising their franchise in the seven-phase polling conducted by the Election Commission of India (ECI) to elect 543 members to the 18th Lok Sabha for the next five years, the far eastern part of Bharat has recorded an impressing voters’ participation.

Thousands of nominees from various national and regional political parties (along with some independent candidates) are contesting in the general elections, where the counting of votes in electronic voting machines is scheduled to take place on 4 June next (and results are also expected the same day).

Leaving aside some stray incidents, the first phase of polling for 102 Parliamentary seats across 17 States and four union territories along with State legislative assemblies of Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim in northeast India, concluded peacefully with around 65 percent voter turnout despite heat waves in many places and rain in some other areas.

The 1st phase witnessed around 1,625 candidates (including 134 females) who have sought the mandate from over 166 million voters (including 82 million female, 11,371 third gender and 18 million first-time electorates). Tripura, bordering Bangladesh, recorded the highest voter turnout, where its West Tripura seat witnessed as high as over 80 percent polling.

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) fielded former State chief minister Biplab Kumar Deb, who is challenged by united opposition candidate Ashish Kumar Saha. The other seat East Tripura will go for polls in the 2nd phase on 26 April along with Manipur, Assam, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Kerala, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Jammu & Kashmir.

Meghalaya recorded equally impressive polling where Shillong constituency witnessed over 65% voting and Tura seat went up to 81%. The ruling National People's Party (NPP) candidate Ampareen Lyngdoh is challenging the sitting Congress MP Vincent Pala in Shillong and in Tura, the sitting NPP MP Agatha Sangma faces electoral challenge from Zenith Sangma (All India Trinamool Congress) and Saleng A Sangma (Indian National Congress).

Voting in five Parliamentary seats of Assam namely Dibrugarh, Kaziranga, Sonitpur, Lakhimpur and Jorhat also went to polls in the 1st phase where over 75 % voter turnout was recorded. The largest State in the region will witness two more phases of polling for Darrang-Udalguri, Nagaon, Diphu, Silchar and Karimganj seats on 26 April and Guwahati, Barpeta, Kokrajhar and Dhubri on 7 May.

In Dibrugarh, central minister Sarbananda Sonowal faces challenges from Manoj Dhanowar (Aam Aadmi Party) and Lurinjyoti Gogoi (Asom Jatiya Parishad, endorsed by the united opposition forum of Assam). In Kaziranga, Rajya Sabha member Kamakhya Prasad Tasa had a direct contest from Congress nominee Roselina Tirkey.

Similarly, in Sonitpur (earlier named as Tezpur) BJP candidate Ranjit Dutta is challenged by Congress candidate Prem Lal Ganju and AAP nominee Rishiraj Kaundinya. Among nine candidates in Lakhimpur seat, sitting MP Pradan Barua primarily faces challenges from Congress candidate Uday Shankar Hazarika.

Jorhat seat attracted public attention as two sitting MPs contested with high promises. Gaurav Gogoi, who represented Kolibar seat (now delimited) came to Jorhat to challenge the sitting MP Tapan Gogoi, once a student leader before joining the saffron party.

Nagaland recorded around 57 % voter’s turnout even after six districts (namely Mon, Longleng, Tuensang, Kiphire, Noklak and Shamator) recorded zero participation of electorates following an appeal by Eastern Nagaland People’s Organization’s (ENPO) to abstain from voting to raise their demand for the Frontier Nagaland Territory.

Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party nominee Chumben Murry, who is also endorsed by People’s Democratic Alliance, remains a front runner against the immediate rival S Supongmeren Jamir (Congress). Mizoram also witnessed peaceful polling with around 55 % turnout, where Zoram People's Movement nominee Richard Vanlalhmangaiha was challenged by Mizo National Front candidate K. Vanlalvena, Congress contestant Lalbiakzama and BJP nominee Vanhlalmuaka.

Amidst troubles in Inner Manipur constituency, the voter turnout was recorded over 75%, where Congress nominee Angomcha Bimol Akoijam is challenged by BJP candidate Thounaojam Basanta Kumar Singh. Some parts of Outer Manipur seat (polling in remaining areas scheduled for 26 April) also went to polls and reported over 61 % turnout. Kachui Timothy Zimik (Naga People’s Front), who is supported by the BJP, faces Congress candidate Alfred Kanngam S Arthur.

Arunachali voters successfully exercised their franchise to elect two MPs and 50 legislators with a turnout of around 67 %. Mentionable is that 10 BJP candidates including State chief minister Pema Khandu and his deputy Chowna Mein were already declared unopposed winners. Union minister Kiren Rijiju faces Congress nominee Nabam Tuki in Arunachal West constituency and sitting saffron MP Tapir Gao has been challenged by Bosiram Siram in Arunachal East seat.

Sikkim electorates also voted for 32 legislators along with one MP with more than 67 % turnout. The ruling Sikkim Krantikari Morcha fielded sitting MP Indra Hang Subba against former Parliamentarian Prem Das Rai (Sikkim Democratic Front), Gopal Chettri (Congress) and Dinesh Chandra Nepal (BJP) for the lone Parliamentary seat. In assembly segments Sikkim CM Prem Singh Tamang, former CM Pawan Kumar Chamling, legendary footballer Bhaichung Bhutia, CM’s wife Krishna Kumari Rai, etc are contesting from respective constituencies.

The 1st phase voting was also conducted in Tamil Nadu (all 39 Parliamentary seats) and Uttarakhand (for five seats). Similarly eight out of 80 seats in Uttar Pradesh, 12 out of 25 seats in Rajasthan, three constituencies in West Bengal, six in Maharashtra, four in Bihar, six in Madhya Pradesh, one each in Chhattisgarh, Puducherry, Lakshadweep, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Jammu & Kashmir also went to polls on the same day.

Bihar recorded the lowest voter turnout (less than 50%) in this phase, where Rajasthan reported over 56 % turnout. Even the violence hit West Bengal reported a better turnout (over 77 %). Despite relentless awareness campaigns by the ECI, various social organisations and news channels, voter turnout continues declining in mainland India. In comparison, the north-eastern States did far better, thanks to a localised campaign by Lok Jagaran Mancha Asom for 100% voter turnout.

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