April 8: As six constituencies in four states of the Northeast prepare for the second of the nine-phase Lok Sabha elections tomorrow — the polls have been postponed in Mizoram’s lone seat to April 11 — the mood on the streets seems to be swinging from expectation to frustration.
In Arunachal West parliamentary constituency, Sherab Zangmu, an entrepreneur from Tawang who runs a garment store in the capital, Itanagar, says although there are decent hospitals with good infrastructure, what good are they if there are no doctors to treat patients.
“As a result, most patients have to travel all the way to Tezpur in Assam to seek better treatment. I hope the new governments both in the state and the Centre will look into these and other development issues,” he said.
About 400km from Tawang, Roing in Lower Dibang Valley district under Arunachal East parliamentary constituency is also plagued by similar problems.
It is against this backdrop that Arunachal Pradesh will go to the polls tomorrow to elect its two MPs and 49 of the 60 MLAs. Eleven of the Congress candidates in the Assembly polls have won uncontested. “We are set for election. All preparations have been made for smooth polls,” an election department official said.
Pressure groups, such as the Siang People’s Forum in East Siang district, also hope that the new governments will address the power issues.
Over the past few years, Arunachal has gained a reputation as a potential “power house of the country”, thanks to the 150-plus memoranda of agreement signed for the construction of hydropower projects. There is a big “if” in the equation as most projects are yet to get off the ground while there has been strong opposition to some of the big dams.
A spokesperson for the forum said, “Tribal people of the area have a right to be here. Why should our homes be uprooted to make way for a concrete structure?”
Many feel that the biggest stumbling block to development is the lax road connectivity in the state. Pritam Taffo, a lawyer, said, “Infrastructure in Arunachal is hampered because of the absence of a good road network”.
When Outer Manipur goes to the polls tomorrow, the state election department will use all modes of transportation to allow voters to exercise their franchise and to bring back EVMs safely. Inner Manipur will go to polls on April 17.
Chief electoral officer O. Nabakishore Singh said four choppers would be used to bring back the EVMs from four of the five hills districts. The choppers will collect EVMs from 166 polling stations in the remotest areas of the districts. Seven helipads have been prepared for this.
Outer Manipur comprises five hill districts — Ukhrul, Senapati, Tamenglong, Chandel and Churachandpur — seven Assembly segments in Thoubal and one in Imphal East district. There are several polling stations where the officials have to travel on foot.
Altogether 9,11,699 voters will chose their candidate from 10, across 1,406 polling stations. Of the polling stations, 327 have been categorised as hypersensitive, 797 as sensitive and 282 as normal.
The candidates are sitting MP and Congress candidate Thangso Baite, former MP Mani Charenamai (Independent), Chungkhokai Doungel (NCP), former MP Kim Gangte (Trinamul Congress), Lien Gangte JD(U), Gangmumei Kamei (BJP), Soso Lorho (Naga People’s Front), Lamlanmoi Gangte (CPI M-L), K. Zou (Aam Aadmi Party) and Amarson Samthil (Independent). The fight will be mainly between Baite, Doungel, Gangmumei and Lorho.
The state election authority is using 206 companies of central paramilitary forces, state forces and unarmed police personnel. One section (10 to 12 personnel) of armed personnel will be deployed in each of the hyper and sensitive polling stations while half a section will be deployed in normal booths. Nabakishore expressed satisfaction at the security deployment.
He said 280 cadres of Kuki outfits, staying in 14 designated camps in the hills, would be allowed to vote through postal ballots. At present there are more than 20 Kuki militant groups having more than 2,000 cadres in designated camps but only 280 are in the voter list. These voters had voted in the 2012 Assembly polls through postal ballot.
In another development, militants, armed with sophisticated weapons, attacked a road-opening party of 44 Assam Rifles at Kamjong in Ukhrul district under Outer Manipur seat, about 198km from Imphal, this morning.
An Assam Rifles jawan, Inderlal Singh, 34, sustained bullet injuries in the encounter that lasted for about 20 minutes. The Assam Rifles airlifted the jawan and admitted him to Leimakhong Military Hospital here. His condition is said to be serious.
The Assam Rifles has rushed additional forces to the site to track the militants. No militant group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Another road-opening party of the Assam Rifles detected an IED planted by militants at Wangoo Lamkhai in Bishnupur district, about 50km from Imphal this morning. Wangoo Lamkhai is under Inner Manipur parliamentary constituency.
In Meghalaya, the fate of 10 candidates in two Lok Sabha seats will be decided tomorrow. In the fray are NPP chief P.A. Sangma, sitting Congress MP Vincent Pala, former student leader Paul Lyngdoh and church leader P.B.M. Basaiawmoit. The Shillong seat will witness a multi-corner contest among the ruling Congress, the United Democratic Party and an Independent candidate supported by two smaller regional parties while the Congress will contest against the P.A. Sangma-led National People’s Party for the Tura seat.
Sangma has held the Tura seat eight out of 10 times while the Congress won the Shillong seat seven times between 1977 and 2009. It has consistently won it since 1988.
Additional forces have been deployed to the state and the BSF has been asked to close the 443km India-Bangladesh border tomorrow.
In Nagaland, poll officials have reached their stations but the people do not appear to be excited on poll-eve despite widespread campaigning by the state election commission to motivate them. “Maybe people are fed up with false promises made to the people by our politicians,” said Toto Nurumi, a resident of Kohima.
In the fray for the state’s lone Lok Sabha seat are three candidates — K.V. Pusa of the Congress, Neiphiu Rio of the Naga People’s Front and Akhei Achumi of the little known Socialist Party of India. The contest is poised to be a direct fight between Pusa and Rio. This is the first time in the Northeast that an incumbent chief minister, Rio, is contesting Lok Sabha polls.