Second phase of voting under way in India

Multi-phase election continues in six constituencies across four northeastern states amid tight security.

    Second phase of voting under way in India
    Voters line up outside the polling booths in Itanagar, the capital of Arunachal Pradesh state [EPA]

    Voting is under way for six parliamentary seats spread across four northeastern states amid tight security in the second phase of India's national election.

    More than 5 million people were eligible to vote on Wednesday in the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Nagaland and Meghalaya, which border China, Bhutan, Myanmar and Bangladesh.

    The nine-phase voting kicked off in two small northeastern states of Assam and Tripura on Monday to choose members to the 543-seat Lok Sabha, or House of the People.

    Voters queued outside the polling booths in Itanagar, the capital of Arunachal Pradesh.

    A first time voter, Noori, said that she was hoping the elections would result in the formation of a stable government, which would place the nation on a path of development.

    "It should be a changed nation, not a changing one, that's why I have come to vote. I have lot of expectations from them, a developed nation. So, that's the reason I am voting for BJP. I am voting for the first time," she said.

    The main opposition party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has promised surges in economic growth if it wins the majority, appears to be leading the race to wrest power from the ruling Congress party.

    Tight security

    Security forces have stepped up safety measures to ensure a safe and fearless environment for voters.

    "Conducting elections in a rugged state like Arunachal Pradesh is a mammoth exercise. Starting April 2, we have carried out 90 helicopters sorties to ferry men and materials to polling stations not otherwise accessible,'' said DJ Bhattacharya, an election official.

    Thousands of police and paramilitary forces guarded voting stations in Manipur state where dozens of sepsratist groups are active.

    Stability is also an election issue in neighbouring Nagaland where the government has been engaged in peace talks with a leading Naga rebel group, the National Socialist Council of Nagaland, for 17 years with no solution in sight.

    "The Nagas are looking for maximum autonomy," said Nchumbemo Lotha, a student.

    In the past, the strife-torn northeastern region of the country has experienced poll boycotts from fighter groups and there have also been threats against candidates from the outlawed United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA).

    Meanwhile, Maoist rebels have killed three soldiers guarding polling officials in central Chhattisgarh state a day ahead of voting there, highlighting security concerns in the world's biggest elections.

    Police said on Wednesday that rebels attacked a convoy of paramilitary commandos as they were returning from escorting election officials to a polling station, about 415km south of the state capital, Raipur.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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