Lok Sabha Election Phase 1: Assam sees turnout of 67.4%; Narendra Modi addresses two rallies in Kamalpur, Silchar

Lok Sabha Election Phase 1: Assam sees turnout of 67.4%; Narendra Modi addresses two rallies in Kamalpur, Silchar

Lok Sabha Election Phase 1: Assam sees turnout of 67.4%; Narendra Modi addresses two rallies in Kamalpur, Silchar

It was a busy day in the North-East with the voters turning up to exercise their franchise in the Lok Sabha elections. This is an important test not just for the Congress which slowly lost its dominance in the North-East, but also for the BJP and its carefully constructed North- East Democratic Alliance (NEDA).

In Assam, polling took place in five -- Lakhimpur, Kaliabor, Dibrugarh, Tezpur and Jorhat-- of the total 14 of the Lok Sabha constituencies. Lakhimpur has the highest number of candidates with 11 people contesting from the constituency. BJP MP Pradan Baruah is the sitting MP in Lakhimpur and he will be battling it out with Congress’s Anil Borgohain. Total electors in this constituency is 14,30,994. Till 5 pm, the voters’ turnout in the state was 67.4 percent.

CM Sarbananda Sonowal had won this seat in the 2014 elections with a margin of 2.90 lakh votes. After casting his vote at Sahitya Sabha Bhavan in Dibrugarh, the CM said that he is sure that BJP will form the government under the leadership of Narendra Modi as Prime Minister.

This election is crucial for the BJP which has to prove its mettle in the region post the introduction of the contentious Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), 2016, which was to be passed by the Lok Sabha in January.This was vehemently opposed by individuals, local parties and civil society groups not only within Assam but all across the North- east However, the bill lapsed as it could not be passed in the Rajya Sabha.

However, the CAB did rock BJP’s smooth sailing in the Northeast.In Assam, BJP will share its Lok Sabha seats with Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and Bodoland People’s Front (BPF). The AGP in January this year broke off it’s alliance with the BJP over the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) 2016. Although the AGP has returned to the BJP fold for the purpose of seat sharing, they continue to maintain their stance against the bill.

Meanwhile, PM Narendra Modi addressed two election rallies in Assam in Kamalpur and Silchar. In the Kamalpur rally, he said that Assam is like his home. He also said that once the BJP comes back to power, his government would grant ST status to six tribes namely:Tai Ahom, Koch Rajbongshi, Tea tribes, Chutia, Moran, and Motok. The PM’s move was criticised by ex-CM Tarun Gogoi who said that campaigning on polling day is a violation of the model code of conduct.

BJP has nominated Rameshwar Teli to contest from Dibrugarh, who had won from the same constituency in 2014 elections for the parliament. His main contender in the constituency is Congress leader Paban Singh Ghatowar, who is a former Union Minister of State (Independent charge), Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region. The Dibrugarh constituency has a notable Tea tribe population which wants their employment conditions to improve.

Parachamani Karmakat, (44), a voter belonging to the tea tribe cast her vote at Sepon High school in Moran under Dibrugarh constituency. She has appealed for a raise in her daily wage from Rs. 167 to Rs 351. "We are a poor garden people facing lots of problem to run our family. I worked at Sepon tea estate as a tea plucker. I want a govt who thinks for poor garden workers," he said. The total voter turnout in Assam as of 5 pm was 67.4 per cent.

In Meghalaya, the Lok Sabha elections took place in two constituencies-- Shillong and Tura-- with both the seats being reserved for members of the Scheduled Tribes in the state. Meghalaya CM, Conrad Sangma belonging to the National People's Party (NPP), cast his vote at Walbagre polling station which is a part of Tura Parliamentary Seat. Sangma in March confirmed that the NPP and the BJP would not enter into a pre-poll alliance for the LS elections.

In Tura, NPP fielded Agatha Sangma as their candidate who was up against ex- CM Mukul Sangma from the Congress. One of the important issues that came up during the polls was illegal mining in Meghalaya. In December last year, 15 miners lost their lives due to illegal mining in the state.

In Shillong, Congress candidate and sitting MP from Shillong seat Vincent H Pala cast his vote in his village Lamyrsiang in East Jaintia Hills and accompanied by his mother. Pala, a former Union Minister and two-time MP from the seat is a strong contender to win the seat. There are six candidates from the Shillong Lok Sabha Constituency and Pala's main contender is United Democratic Party's Jemino Mawthoh.

Meghalaya recorded 62 percent voters’ turnout till 5 pm.

Werlang Buhphang aged 21, a student of North East Hill University (NEHU) is a first time voter in the Parliamentary MP elections. When asked what he is expecting from this election, he says “I am hoping for a Government that will abide by the constitution and that will focus on inclusive development and not exclusive.”

Elections in Manipur took place in the outer parliamentary constituency and BJP’s candidate was KK Ranjan Singh while the Congress fielded K James. At the Papal Primary School polling station, voters were shying away from casting their votes in this polling station as they hardly have seen any of the candidates.

While, in Mizoram, CM Zoramthanga cast his vote at 7:05 am in Ramhlun Venglai polling station. Former CM Lal Thanhawla speaks to reporters and said that he is confident Lalnghinglova Hmar from the Congress would win. While, the Brus voted at special polling station at the Tripura transit camp at Kanhmun. Also, for the first time in the history of LS elections in Mizoram, Lalthlamauni, a 63- year-old female independent candidate, contested. The total voter turnout in Manipur as of 5 pm 78.20 per cent while in Mizoram it was  60.82 per cent.

In the West Tripura constituency, the major competition is between BJP candidate Smt. Pratima Bhaumik and Congress candidate Shri Subal Bhowmik, who is a rebel and was ex BJP vice-president, joined congress just few days before the election. Apart from that BJP coalition partner IPFT is also fighting  this seat separately, Brishaketu Debbarma, the sitting MLA of Simna constituency.

Pratima Bhaumik alleged that Congress and CPI(M) goons are creating nuisance to stop voters to turn to the polling station. Whereas Ex CM Sri Samir Ranjan Barman is saying that the ruling government along with officials have turned this election into a farce. The voter turnout in Tripura as of 5 pm was 81 per cent.

In Nagaland, four candidates battled it out for a single LS seat. The candidates include Congress leader and former CM K L Chishi, Hayithung Tungoe from National People's Party (NPP), Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) and sitting MP Tokheho Yepthomi and independent candidateM.M Thromwa Konyak from the Indian Christian Secular Party (ICSP). The voter turnout in Nagaland as of 5 pm was 73 per cent.

Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh also went into polls electing their leaders to the state assembly along with the LS polls.Former captain of the Indian Football team Bhaichung Bhutia will also be participating in the poll with his newly-launched Hamro Sikkim Party (HSP) cast his vote at Pangthang under Kabi Kunchok constituency. Issues like anti-incumbency, unemployment will play decider in this Himalayan state.

In the last 2014 Assembly polls Sonam Lama, a representative of Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM), had won the seat by a margin of only 126 votes. Tshering Lama has been fielded from the ruling Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF), while Karma Tashi Bhutia has been fielded from Congress.  

The number of voters for the Sangha seat this year is 3,293, which includes 3,224 monks, 69 nuns and Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) of Sikkim. Buddhist monks registered with 51 monasteries in the State are the only ones who can contest and cast their votes for the unique Assembly seat said R. Telang, CEO. “The number of voters this year is 4,32,306 and they will cast their votes in 567 polling stations in the state. A total of 2,20,305 are males and 2,12,001 are female voters,” said R Telang.

Out of 567 polling stations in 51 polling stations, arrangements are being made for casting of votes for the Sangha seat.The total voter turnout in Sikkim as of 5 pm was 75 per cent.

Arunachal Pradesh voted for the two Lok Sabha seats and 57 of its 60-member Legislative Assembly.This time former MP and BJP state President Tapir Gao is fought against James Lowangcha Wanglat of the Congress. Congress and BJP are likely to vie for the top prize in this state. Bandey Mili of the Janata Dal (Secular) and Mongol Yomso of the People’s Party of Arunachal (PPA) - along with independent candidate C C Singpho are the three other candidates.

BJP is looking to win the assembly elections and form its own government in the state. Issues like infrastructural development, unemployment, security and Citizenship Amendment Bill will play an important role in the elections here. The total voter turnout in Arunachal Pradesh as of 5 pm was 58.26 per cent.

Pics: Syed Sajjad Ali, Tripura


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