Lok Sabha election Phase 1: 85% voting in Tripura, 75% in Assam
Polling took place in five seats of Assam and one seat of Tripura on Monday
Dibrugarh, Assam: The first electors cast their votes on Monday in the world’s biggest election, in which the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party led by Narendra Modi is seen by pollsters as holding a strong advantage over the ruling Congress party. Polling took place in five seats of Assam and one seat of Tripura on Monday.
Some 815 million people are registered to vote over the next five weeks as the election ripples out in stages from two small states near Myanmar to include northern Himalayan plateaus, western deserts and the tropical south, before ending in the densely-populated northern plains. Results are due on 16 May.
Elderly women in saris and young men in jeans and polo shirts lined up outside a dilapidated sports centre in Dibrugarh, a river town in the tea-growing state of Assam, one of two states to vote on Monday.
“We need a change, someone who will come and change the whole scenario,” said handbag shop manager Ashim Sarkar, 35.
During high-octane campaigning at well-attended rallies the length and breadth of India, Modi has been promising to jumpstart a flagging economy and sweep out the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty that has ruled India for most of the period since independence in 1947.
Turnout in the five constituencies in Assam that went to the polls on Monday was 75%. Voting ended at 5pm and was peaceful, the chief election officer for the state said.
Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and allies are forecast to win the biggest chunk of the 543 parliamentary seats up for grabs, but fall shy of a majority, according to a survey released last week by pollsters CSDS. In such an outcome, a coalition government led by the BJP is seen as likely.
India’s north-east, home to 27.4 million voters, is a test case for the appeal of Modi’s promises to fill India with new highways and fast trains and to take a tough line on frontier disputes with neighbours. China claims sections of the region.
“Young people can’t find good work here—the jobs available are just picking tea leaves,” said Jyotirmoy Sharma, a manager at a tea factory who lives in Lahoal village near Dibrugarh. He voted for the ruling Congress party in India’s last two national elections in 2004 and 2009 but will switch to Modi this time.
North-east India is one of the few remaining strongholds for Congress. The CSDS poll found that almost half of voters in Assam, who have one of the country’s lowest per capita incomes and often rely on the centre-left Congress’ welfare schemes, are set to support the party.
But Congress might not do as well as in the last election, said Hiren Gohain, a social scientist based in the state capital Guwahati. “They dole out money and help and that has created some loyalty—but it won’t work on everyone,” he said, citing the slow pace of infrastructure projects such as the Bogibeel Bridge near Dibrugarh, which was started by the last BJP-led coalition government 12 years ago and remains unfinished. Reuters
Biswajyoti Das contributed to this story.
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