Two things remain unchanged in Arunachal Pradesh — the Congress rule and the people’s loyalty to India. Neither was in any doubt, but the heightened Chinese propaganda over the northeastern state made the elections there somewhat different this time. Incidentally, the Chinese objection to the visit of the prime minister, Manmohan Singh, to the state came on the day the polls took place there. By overwhelmingly taking part in the elections, the people there rebuffed the Chinese claim and reposed their faith in India yet again. Of course, the Chinese will not see the poll results as having any bearing on their position on the ‘disputed’ territory. But the polls can legitimately be seen as a reflection of the popular will on the issue. In a way, the massive turnout in the polls is also a happy augury for the Dalai Lama’s visit to the state next month. It also shows how the people view Beijing’s opposition to the visit. True, the Chinese whispers were neither an issue in the elections nor did they unduly agitate the voters about the fate of the territory. But the timing of the Chinese statement made the polls a sort of referendum on the territorial question.
However, there never was any uncertainty about the Congress’s chance of continuing its regime in the state. In India’s fractious electoral politics, it is rare for a candidate to win an assembly poll uncontested. That three Congress nominees were elected unopposed this time gave a clear enough hint of what to expect of the polls. Except for one term, the state had always had a Congress government. But the long reign of the party has not seen major changes in the state’s economic horizon. Unlike in the other parts of India, funds are the least of the problems for economic development in the Northeast. The state has plenty of such funds under the prime minister’s special package worth Rs 24,000 crore. If development is still slow, corruption and lack of transparency are the main reasons. The opposition in Arunachal Pradesh may be too weak to change the political landscape, but its charges of misuse of funds by ministers and officials are largely valid. The people have chosen the Congress yet again. But that is more for the absence of a real alternative than for any other reason. The party owes it to the people to give them a more efficient and less corrupt government.