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Arunachal votes for assembly, Lok Sabha Wednesday
Tuesday April 8, 2014 8:41 PM, IANS

Over 750,000 people in India's mountainous state of Arunachal Pradesh will Wednesday cast their ballot for simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and the state assembly.

Polling will be held for the state's two Lok Sabha seats - Arunachal West and Arunachal East - and 49 of the 60 assembly seats.

In the assembly polls, 11 Congress candidates, including Chief Minister Nabam Tuki and two cabinet colleagues Tanga Bayaling and Pema Khandu, have already won uncontested. Hence the polls would be held only for 49 seats.

Altogether 7,53,170 voters - among them 3,77,272 women - will decide the fate of 11 candidates contesting from the two Lok Sabha constituencies and the assembly seats in the state bordering China and Myanmar.

Of eight prominent candidates in the fray for the Lok Sabha election from Arunachal West, BJP leader Kiren Rijiju is expected to give a tough fight to sitting Congress member Takam Sanjoy.

Union minister and Congress leader Ninong Ering, who is recontesting from Arunachal East, will face the BJP's Tapir Gao.

The ruling Congress in the state had recommended dissolution of the assembly seven months before its term expires in October.

However, winning uncontested elections is nothing new to this state.

Late former chief minister Dorjee Khandu, who died in a helicopter crash, had won unopposed for two consecutive times from Mukto constituency in Tawang in 2004 and 2009.

As many as 155 candidates, including five women, will battle it out in the remaining 49 assembly constituencies.

Candidates from the Naga People's Front, Nationalist Congress Party and People's Party of Arunachal (PPA) are also in the fray in some constituencies.

The Congress is confident of retaining its seats.

"We are confident to retain power in Arunachal Pradesh as 11 of our candidates have already been declared winners. We are also optimistic that both our sitting MPs will retain their seats," Congress leader Luizinho Faleiro told IANS.

In 2009, the Congress won 42 assembly seats, while first-timers Trinamool Congress and NCP won five seats each. Four seats were bagged by the PPA and one was taken by an Independent.

However, the Congress tally rose to 55, after the NCP and PPA legislators joined the party along with four Trinamool members.

The opposition BJP is equally confident of returning to the Lok Sabha from the state after a gap of five years, and also of forming the government in the state.

"We are confident of winning both the Lok Sabha constituencies and securing more seats in the assembly that will help us lead a non-Congress government in Arunachal," state BJP president Tai Tagak said.

BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, Nagaland chief minister Neiphiu Rio and film personalities Raza Murad and Asrani have campaigned in the state.

The killing of Arunachal student Nido Tania in New Delhi was one of the main election issues, apart from the need for a corruption-free government, better law and order and resolution of the border dispute with neighbouring state Assam.

A survey by the Association for Democratic Reforms and Arunachal Pradesh Election Watch said 91 of the candidates are crorepatis - an increase of 41 percent compared to the 2009 polls.

Two polling stations - Luguthang and Mago in Tawang district, bordering China - at a height of more than 13,000 feet above sea level in Arunachal West constituency, are among the highest polling centres in the country that are perpetually covered with snow.

"Polling officials in Luguthang and Mago have been provided with snow boots, goggles, as well as satellite phones for communication," state Chief Electoral Officer Chandra Bhusan Kumar told IANS.

Of the 2,158 polling booths, 664 are inaccessible, while eight have less than 10 electors, 20 have less than 20 electors and 105 have less than 50 electors.

Malogaon booth Hayuliang constituency has only two voters.

Flying squads and surveillance teams of the Election Commission have so far seized Rs.4.16 crore in cash besides 69,503 litres of liquor worth Rs.1.22 crore.

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