Guwahati/Agartala/New Delhi (IANS): India went to the polls Monday, with nearly six million people casting their vote in five constituencies in Assam and one of two seats in Tripura. The chief ministers of both the northeastern states dismissed any “Modi wave” and expressed happiness at the high voter turnout of at least 74 percent in Assam and as high as 84 percent in Tripura.
The nine-phase Lok Sabha election, the world’s largest democratic exercise involving 814 million eligible voters spread across 28 states and seven union territories, began Monday and ends May 12. The results will be out May 16.
The Election Commission in New Delhi said the voter turnout in Assam – 72.5 percent till 5 p.m. and was expected to go up as “people were still in queue to vote” – might cross 75 percent while, in Tripura, it was 84 percent till 5 p.m.
Assam’s chief electoral officer Vijayendra later said 74.19 percent turnout had been recorded till 6.30 p.m., while officials said it would go up as reports were still being collected from various polling stations.
Kaliabor Lok Sabha constituency saw the highest turnout – 75.94 percent, followed by Jorhat with 75.68 percent. Tezpur Lok Sabha constituency registered 74 percent, Lakhimpur 72.76 percent and Dibrugarh 72.56 percent polling.
Brisk polling was seen in five of the 14 Lok Sabha constituencies in Congress-ruled Assam and one of the two in Marxist-ruled Tripura. Voting for only these six seats, out of a total 543 in the country, was held Monday.
An estimated 6.4 million people were eligible to vote for the five seats in Assam.
In Assam, polling was peaceful even as the day coincided with the ‘Raising Day’ of insurgent outfit United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA).
As balloting began at 7 a.m., people queued up at polling stations in Tezpur, Jorhat, Kaliabor, Dibrugarh and Lakhimpur. Polling was briefly delayed in a few of the 8,588 booths due to technical snags in the electronic voting machines (EVMs).
The political fate of 51 candidates were sealed in the EVMs in Assam’s first phase of polling. Three constituencies will go to the polls April 12 and the remaining six April 24.
Prominent candidates whose electoral fate was sealed Monday include the chief minister’s son Gourav Gogoi, outgoing Congress MP Bijoy Krishna Handique, BJP state president Sarbananda Sonowal, and union ministers Ranee Narah and Paban Singh Ghatowar.
In Tripura, over 80 percent of the 1.2 million electorate cast their votes till 5 p.m. in Tripura West constituency, as polling was held for one of the two seats in the Left-ruled state, an official said.
“Long queues of people were seen in most of the 1,605 polling stations. Clear sky with excellent weather encouraged voters to come to the polling booths early,” Tripura Chief Electoral Officer Ashutosh Jindal told IANS.
Voting was delayed for a while in some polling booths due to technical snags in the EVMs but engineers either replaced or rectified the machines, he said.
Jindal said no major complaint of wrongdoing was received from any party.
Polling in the tribal reserved Tripura East constituency will be held April 12.
In Agartala, Chief Minister Manik Sarkar questioned a wave in favour of BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.
“Where is the Modi wave? There is no Modi wave not only in Tripura but also in the entire country. The corporate media has created this so-called wave,” Sarkar said.
Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi spoke on similar lines in Jorhat after casting his vote: “Modi magic will not work here. It is Tarun Gogoi’s magic that will work here.”
“We earlier had problems like insurgency and lack of development (in Assam). The performance of my government is better than Gujarat’s in many aspects.”
In the last polls in 2009, the voter turnout was 84.45 percent and in 2004 it was 67.39 percent across Tripura.
SECOND PHASE ON WEDNESDAY
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.