| Girls wait for their turn to vote at a booth in Itanagar on Wednesday. Picture by Ranju Dodum |
Itanagar, April 9: Unlike in the rest of the country where the elections are being seen as a contest between individuals, in the urban centres of Arunachal Pradesh — especially in capital Itanagar — it is not RaGa or NaMo but development that persuaded voters to exercise their franchise today.
Voters in the capital turned up in huge numbers early this morning despite an overcast sky and light showers. High on their agenda was the hope that infrastructure in Itanagar would develop to a level worthy of a state capital.
The overall turnout in the state was 71 per cent. In 2009, this number was 68.16 per cent.
“Just look at the terrible condition of the roads in the capital,” complained Techi Sakter, a driver employed at the civil secretariat here.
Commenting on the pothole-riddled streets of Itanagar, Sakter said he was voting for better infrastructure in the capital. “The state capital and its people deserve better roads”, he said while waiting in a queue outside the D-sector polling station. Pointing at the rain-filled puddles in the middle of the street, Sakter said roads were being built using sub-standard materials, which don’t last more than a year.
Taba Yakar, a young woman in her twenties, expressed similar anguish over the condition of roads in Itanagar.
“We want to be proud of our capital because it is the one place that is supposed to represent the level of development of a state,” she said. “If the roads in the state capital are in such a pitiable condition, I cannot imagine how terrible they must be in the villages.”
More than 250km away in Pasighat, East Siang district, voters today echoed similar concern.
“Pasighat is the oldest established town in the state but road conditions today are no better than they were 50 years ago”, said Vijoy Borang, a central government employee.
The ambitious Trans-Arunachal Highway, which passes along Pasighat, stands in stark contrast to the road within the town. Borang said: “The drive to Pasighat is excellent but once you enter the town, the standard quickly deteriorates. The 1.5km stretch of road in the main market area is an absolute nightmare”. He hoped things would change for the better.
Women also turned up in good numbers at Naharlagan, 10km from Itanagar. A young woman, Taba Yakar, said: “Women in our tribal societies are treated on a par with men. Although there are issues that need to be highlighted, we feel safe here, unlike women outside the Northeast. The next government should look into these issues,” Yakar said after casting her vote in Naharlagan’s model village.
Of the 7,53,170 voters in the state, 3,77,272 are women.