Polls close in India's second-phase elections

High voter turnout recorded in northeastern regions

High voter turnout recorded in northeastern regions

NEW DELHI - A large number of people came out to vote in the second phase of India’s national election which ended peacefully on Wednesday evening in four northeastern states for seven parliamentary seats.

Arunachal Pradesh recorded 55% turnout, Manipur 80%, Meghalaya 71%, and voting in the lone constituency of Nagaland was 81%, officials from India’s Election Commission told the media.

Two constituencies in Arunachal Pradesh, two constituencies in Manipur, two constituencies in Meghalaya and one constituency in Nagaland state went to polls to elect lawmakers for the 16th Lok Sabha – or lower house of the Indian parliament – in the second phase of the month-long election.

Voting in the lone constituency of Mizoram, another northeastern state scheduled to go to polls on Wednesday, was deferred to Friday April 11. The Election Commission took this decision on April 7 after a state-wide shutdown was called by three NGOs in protest against the allowance for ethnic Bru refugees to vote via postal ballot from relief camps in neighboring Tripura.

A state election was simultaneously held in Arunachal Pradesh on Wednesday for 49 out of 60 seats. Eleven ruling Congress party contestants are set to be elected in the state assembly unopposed after the withdrawal of nominations by the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). 

The polling began at 7am in India’s northeast amid tight security as the region is home to various separatists groups. Voters waited in long queues to cast their ballots at hundreds of polling booths monitored by election commission officials.

At some polling booths, a number of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) malfunctioned before being replaced immediately by election commission officials.

Riding on a wave of popularity for prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party is keen to break new ground in the northeast, traditionally a stronghold for Congress. A number of small regional parties are also competing.

This is the first national election in which India’s voters have the right to reject candidates by pressing a NOTA (None of the Above) button, after a Supreme Court ruling last year.      

The hotly contested election is being fought in nine phases from April 7 to May 12 around the key issues of corruption, inflation, unemployment, anti-incumbency and secularism.

The election results will be announced on May 16.

Around 815 million registered voters are expected to cast their ballots, an increase of 100 million new voters compared with the 2009 election.

According to opinion polls, the BJP, which has been in opposition for the past two terms, is anticipated to form the next federal government after defeating the Congress party, which has been in power since 2004.

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