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Multi-cornered contest in 15 NE seats going to polls in 1st phase on Friday

The Election Commission has made elaborate arrangements and deployed a large number of Central Armed Police Force (CAPF) personnel along with thousands of state forces for the first phase of the polls in 15 out of the total 25 parliamentary constituencies in the eight northeastern states.

Coping with natural challenges, election and security officials moved to their polling stations in remote areas through different modes including on foot in Mizoram, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya,and Nagaland two to three days ago. A majority of the polling officials accompanied by security personnel left for their stipulated polling stations on Thursday.

In Friday’s elections, the electoral fate of two Union ministers, two state Congress chiefs, three Rajya Sabha members and prominent leaders would be decided.

They include Union Ministers Kiren Rijiju (Arunachal West) and Sarbananda Sonowal (Dibrugarh), Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Gaurav Gogoi (Jorhat), BJP Rajya Sabha members Biplab Kumar Deb (Tripura West), Kamakhya Prasad Tasa (Kaziranga), Mizo National Front Rajya Sabha member K. Vanlalvena (Mizoram), Arunachal Pradesh Congress president Nabam Tuki (Arunachal West) and his Tripura counterpart Asish Kumar Saha (Tripura West).

On Friday, elections will be held in five seats in Assam, two each in Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Manipur (fully in Inner Manipur seat and partly in Outer Manipur), one of the two seats in Tripura, and the sole seats in Nagaland, Mizoram and Sikkim.

Simultaneous polls for two Lok Sabha seats — Arunachal West and Arunachal East — along with 50 Assembly seats would be held on Friday.

Of the total 60 Assembly seats in Arunachal Pradesh, BJP candidates in 10 seats including Chief Minister Pema Khandu (Mukto seat) and Deputy Chief Minister Chowna Mein (Chowkham seat), have been elected unopposed.

In Manipur, due to the nearly year-long ethnic violence between the Meitei and Kuki-Zomi communities, unprecedented security measures have been put in place across the state to prevent any untoward incident before and during the voting.

Polling for the Outer Manipur seat would be held in two phases – out of its 28 Assembly segments, voting would be held on April 19 in 15 Assembly segments while the remaining 13 would vote in the second phase on April 26.

Given the ethnic strife, campaigning for the two Lok Sabha seats – Inner Manipur and Outer Manipur — was significantly subdued this time.

Political parties and the candidates did not organise any public meeting — something that is unprecedented in the 75-year electoral history of the northeastern state.

Only on April 15, Union Home Minister and senior BJP leader Amit Shah addressed an election rally in Imphal in support of the party candidates.

A total of 10 candidates — six in Inner Manipur and four in Outer Manipur — are contesting the two Lok Sabha seats. The main contest is expected between BJP-Naga People’s Front and the INDIA bloc.

Over 24,500 eligible voters, sheltered in relief camps due to the ethnic violence, would exercise their franchise at 94 special polling stations set up in the relief camps in 10 of the state’s 16 districts.

In Tripura, of the state’s two Lok Sabha seats, election will be held in Tripura West constituency on Friday and altogether nine candidates are trying their electoral fortunes.

In the politically important Tripura West seat, the main contest is expected between former Tripura Chief Minister and BJP candidate Biplab Kumar Deb, and state unit Congress president Asish Kumar Saha, of the INDIA bloc.

The by-election to the Ramnagar Assembly seat will also be held on Friday. The seat fell vacant after the demise of sitting BJP MLA Surajit Datta on December 28 last year.

Two candidates, one each of the BJP and the CPI-M, are trying their electoral fortunes in the Ramnagar Assembly by-poll.

In Nagaland, unlike 2019, the state’s lone Lok Sabha seat is set to witness a triangular contest between candidates of the ruling Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP), the Congress, and an Independent.

The NDPP, which is leading the opposition-less People’s Democratic Alliance government, nominated Chumben Murry while the Congress fielded S. Supongmeren Jamir. Independent candidate Hayithung Tungoe Lotha is also contesting for the seat.

In Mizoram, six candidates including a woman are contesting for the lone parliamentary seat in the state.

The ruling Zoram People’s Movement, which is contesting the Lok Sabha election for the first time, has put up entrepreneur Richard Vanlalhmangaiha. The Opposition Mizo National Front fielded its sitting Rajya Sabha member K. Vanlalvena while the Congress nominated Lalbiakzama and the BJP put up its state president Vanlalhmuaka.

The lone female nominee Rita Malsawmi, a singer and lyricist, was fielded by the Mizoram People’s Conference while one Independent candidate is vying for the Mizoram Lok Sabha seat reserved for the tribals.

Congress candidate Lalbiakzama (64) is a former police officer and Mizoram’s ex-Home Secretary.

The Ministry of Home Affairs has provided thousands of Central Armed Police Force personnel from the Border Security Force, Central Reserve Police Force, and other para-military forces to manage the law and order situation during the elections.

The northeastern states have international borders with China, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal.

A senior election official told IANS that special security measures were taken along the 1,643 km long border with Myanmar, the 1,880 km long border with Bangladesh, the over 1,300 km border with China, the 516 km border with Bhutan, and the 98 km border with Nepal to foil any cross-border illegal activities, infiltration, and misadventure during the run-up to the elections.

IANS

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