Five northeast states to vote Wednesday (Curtain Raiser)

Itanagar/Imphal/Aizawl/Kohima, April 7: The second phase of the Lok Sabha elections will be held Wednesday for seven seats in five northeastern states – Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland.

Balloting will be held in the two Lok Sabha constituencies each in Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya, one of the two constituencies in Manipur, and for the lone parliamentary seats in Mizoram and Nagaland.

In 2009, the Congress won both the seats of Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur each, the lone seat of Mizoram and one of the two in Meghalaya.

The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) won one seat in Meghalaya while Nagaland’s lone seat was bagged by the Naga People’s Front.

Polling for the 60-member Arunachal assembly will also be held April 9.

While 11 Congress candidates, including Chief Minister Nabam Tuki, have been elected unopposed tio the Arunachal assembly, 163 people will contest for the remaining 49 assembly seats, and 11 candidates are vying for the two Lok Sabha seats – Arunachal West and Arunachal East, both reserved for tribals.

Altogether, 759,498 voters would exercise their right to franchise for both the Lok Sabha and assembly polls in 2,158 polling stations in Arunachal Pradesh.

The Congress or its breakaway groups have been in power in Arunachal Pradesh since 1980. The only time when the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power was in 2003, when former Congress chief minister Gegong Apang crossed over to the BJP camp. But the BJP government lasted for only 42 days.

In 2004, the Congress bagged 34 of the 60 assembly seats. It improved its tally in 2009 to 42. While the BJP bagged three and the NCP five, as many as 10 seats were captured by local parties and independents.

In Nagaland, Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio will fight the Lok Sabha polls against Congress candidate K.V. Pusa. Rio’s NPF is part of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance.

In all, 1,182,903 voters would cast their ballots in 2,059 polling stations to decide the fate of three candidates in the fray for the lone Lok Sabha seat from Nagaland.

In Manipur, polling will be held for the Outer Manipur seat April 9 while the Inner Manipur constituency will vote April 17.

Ten candidates are in the fray in Outer Manipur – including the Congress’s Thangso Baite, BJP’s Gangmumei Kamei, Trinamool Congress’s Kim Gangte and the NCP’s Chungkhokai Doungel.

In all, 899,626 people are eligible to cast their votes in 1,406 polling stations in Outer Manipur.

In Mizoram’s lone Lok Sabha constituency, it will be a triangular fight between incumbent member C.L. Ruala of the Congress, Robert Romawia Royte of the United Democratic Front (UDF) and M. Lalmanzuala of the Aam Aadmi Party.

The main opposition UDF is an alliance of eight parties led by the Mizo National Front, which ruled the state for two terms (1998-2003 and 2003-2008).

The MNF had won the Lok Sabha seat, reserved for tribals, in 2004.

By-election for the Hrangturzo assembly seat would also be held April 9.

The by-election was necessitated after Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla, who won from two seats in the assembly polls held in November last year, vacated the seat.

Vanlalawmpuii Chawngthu of the Congress would contest against UDF leader H. Lalduhawma, who unsuccessfully contested the last assembly polls from the same constituency.

Altogether 702,189 people are eligible to vote in 1,126 polling stations in Mizoram.

Tight security measures have been taken in all the states. Border Security Force, Central Reserve Police Force and Assam Rifles have been deployed in large numbers, said an Election Commission official.

“Helicopters would be pressed into service and mobile surveillance squads would supervise the election,” the official.

Considering hot weather and early sunrise and sunset, the poll panel has extended polling time by an hour in the northeastern region, except in Manipur and Nagaland, due to certain security concerns. Voters can cast their ballot from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

IANS