High turnout in second phase of India polls

Voting for six parliamentary seats spread across four northeastern states ends, with next round to be held on Thursday.

    High turnout in second phase of India polls
    Voters line up outside a polling booths in Arunachal Pradesh state [Reuters]

    Millions of people across India's four northeastern states of Manipur, Nagaland, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh have voted in the second round of parliamentary elections.

    High turnout was reported as voting closed on Wednesday evening, with Nagaland state registering 81.47 percent polling, Manipur 80 percent, Meghalaya 71 percent and Arunachal Pradesh 55 percent, the timesofindia.com reported quoting election officials.

    A total of 5 million electorates were registered to vote for the six parliamentary seats up for grabs. A third phase of voting is scheduled for Thursday which will be by far the biggest to date, with constituencies in 14 states including the capital region heading to the ballot box.

    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 had 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 separatist groups are active.

    Stability was also an election issue in 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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