Northeast’s impressive polling




The biggest electoral show on Earth begins in India, as polling began on  19 April, where  969 million eligible voters were scheduled to exercise their franchise through the electronic voting machines to elect 543 members to the 18th Lok Sabha for the next five years. Thousands of nominees from various national and regional political parties (along with some independent candidates) are contesting in the seven-phase polling,  where the counting of votes will take place on 4 June.  Leaving aside some incidents in Manipur, the first phase of general elections 2024  concluded peacefully with impressive turnout of voters. The polling across 21 States/union territories also comprised State legislative assemblies of Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim  in northeast India.

India with 1.4 billion population (highest on Earth) has a 545-member lower house of Parliament, where two members are nominated by the President from the Anglo-Indian community. Northeast with a population of 60 million sends 25 MPs to Lok Sabha. The first phase of polling covered 102 Parliamentary constituencies, where around 1,625 candidates  including 134 females sought the mandate from over 166 million voters (including 82 million female, 11,371 third gender and 18 million first-time electorates). Tripura recorded the  highest voter turnout, where its West Tripura constituency witnessed as high as over 80  percent polling. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) fielded former State chief minister Biplab Kumar Deb, who is challenged by united opposition candidate Ashish Kumar Saha. Five out of 14 Parliamentary seats in Assam went to polls with key contestants including central minister and BJP leader  Sarbananda Sonowal, sitting MPs Gaurav Gogoi, Tapan Gogoi, Pradan Barua and Kamakhya Prasad Tasa.  The largest State in the region will witness two more phases of polling on 26 April (for Darrang-Udalguri, Nagaon, Diphu,  Silchar and Karimganj) and 7 May (for Guwahati, Barpeta,  Kokrajhar and Dhubri). The voters' turnout in all five seats namely Dibrugarh, Kaziranga, Sonitpur, Lakhimpur and Jorhat was also satisfactory (over 75%). In Dibrugarh seat, Sonowal faces electoral challenges from  Manoj Dhanowar (Aam Aadmi Party) and Lurinjyoti Gogoi (Asom Jatiya Parishad, endorsed by the united opposition forum ). In Kaziranga, Rajya Sabha MP Tasa has a direct contest against the Indian National Congress nominee Roselina Tirkey. Similarly, in Sonitpur (earlier named as Tezpur) BJP candidate Ranjit Dutta has been challenged by Congress candidate Prem Lal Ganju and AAP nominee Rishiraj Kaundinya. Among nine candidates in Lakhimpur seat, BJP nominee Barua primarily faces challenges from Congress candidate Uday Shankar Hazarika. Jorhat seat has attracted media attention as two sitting MPs (both with surname Gogoi) are contesting. Gaurav tried his electoral fate against Tapan, a former student union leader turned a saffron party member.

Meghalaya’s voting percentage remains high where Tura seat witnessed over 81% polling. Nagaland recorded 56 % voter’s turnout as six districts recorded zero vote following an appeal by ENPO to abstain from voting. Inner Manipur seat reported over  72 % polling. Mizoram also witnessed fair polling.  Arunachal voters successfully  exercised their franchise to elect two MPs and 50 legislators (10 BJP candidates including State chief minister Pema Khandu were already declared winners unopposed). Union minister Kiren Rijiju faces Congress nominee Nabam Tuki in Arunachal West seat and sitting saffron  MP Tapir Gao has been challenged by Bosiram Siram in Arunachal East constituency. Similarly, Sikkim electorates also voted for one MP and 32 legislators. Prime Minister Narendra Modi participated in a road show in  Guwahati along with Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma to seek votes for the NDA nominees.  Union home minister Amit Shah addressed an election rally in the trouble torn Manipur. BJP national president JP Nadda  addressed a poll rally in Kokrajhar and Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi campaigned for party candidates in a poll rally organised in Jorhat. With an aim to record almost 100% voters’ turn out, an Assam-based nationalist  forum launched a massive campaign with printed leaflets, music videos and short plays, to inspire the voters to arrive at the polling booths on time. Lok Jagaran Mancha Asom argued that the initiative has been taken to strengthen the democracy in Bharat. A  praiseworthy & successful initiative indeed!


Nava Thakuria is a senior journalist based in Guwahati and has been in the profession for more than three decades. His focus areas remain the socio-political and environmental issues of eastern Bharat. Often his articles are used by various media outlets based in different parts of south & southeast Asia. 


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