Do the north eastern states vote differently in state assembly and Lok Sabha elections?

As India goes to polls next month, the wave of the General Elections 2014 extravaganzas, and preparations is being felt across the length and breadth of the country. The upcoming election is rated as one of the most interesting elections in post Independence era.

In the north east states though, the election pitches do not reach such magnitude, comparatively as in other ‘mainland’ states. This is unlike the State Assembly elections,  where normal life were literally on halt during such election campaignsthat would comprise of loud microphones, public meetings, road side discussion and door to doorvisits. During state assembly elections, these states too witnessed extravaganzas and flow of liquor like any other election campaigns across the country.   In Parliamentary Elections, no such enthusiasm or euphoria amongst the general public were observed and witnessed either during or after the elections, while candidates and political parties do not make much of an effort in- terms of wooing electorates.
The indication of the countdown to the Lok Sabha elections would be the visits of Prime Ministerial candidates, National level political party leaders’ public address for about an hour or so in the North East state capitals. In this case, it would obviously be the likes of Rajiv Gandhi, in the earlier years and now Sonia Gandhi or Rahul Gandhi in the recent years. Another such personalities, this time is the visit of Narendra Modi of the BJP.
This trend in people’s participation in terms of exercising their adult franchise – State and Lok Sabha elections gives us a picture of how State elections witnessed more fanfare and enthusiasm than the Parliamentary elections. (source – ).
General election 2009 record voter turn-out between 65 % to 74% in Assam, while State election in 2011 saw voter turn-out between 80% to 92 % in all the twenty seven districts.   While the two Lok Sabha seats in Arunachal Pradesh recorded 67 % and 72 % voter turn-out , the  State  election record showed  85% to 92% turn out in 2009. In Manipur the last Lok Sabha election saw voter turn-out of 72 % and 84 % for the two seats , while the State election saw turn out  between 70% to 90% in 2012.  In Meghalaya voter turn-out recorded in the last election was 63 % and 68% for the two Lok Sabha seats while the State Election in 2013 recorded 85% to 95% voter turn-out. In Mizoram the lone Lok Sabha seat election saw only 52 % turn-out, while the last State election witnessed 80% – 85 % turn out.  In Nagaland, voter turn-out record was 90 % for the lone Lok Sabha seat, while 92% to 98% voter turn-out was recorded in the state assembly polls in 2013. In Tripura the last Lok Sabha election saw 84%and 86% voter turn-out for the two seats, while the State assembly recorded above 90% turn out from all the eight districts in 2013.
Surprisingly, voter turn-out both the State and general election were higher in North East states than some of the key states such as Uttar Pradesh, the Congress bastion. In Rae Bareli only 48% voter out was recorded in the last Lok Sabha election with an average of 50% to 65% voter turn-out in all the districts in the last 2012 state election. Further, in Amethi constituency it was 45 % turn out in Lok sabha election and 56% in state assembly election in 2012. Moreover in other state such as Bihar voter turn-out recorded as low as an average of 34 % turn out in Patna constituency in the last general election and between 35 % to 56 % in district such as Patna 60 % in state  election. (source – ).
One of key reason for this general feeling of less enthusiasm in the general election to the parliament in the northeast states could well be the ‘minority status’ where out of the total 545 parliamentary seats, the seven North east states sends only 24 representatives.
In terms of election campaign, slogans and manifestos, Incumbency and Corruption figures as poll plank in the mainstream, while Development is the key manifesto in North east states. Though, corruption has its own various facets, the subject have not been a public debate.
Moreover, a look at the government formation in the North East presents the influence and impact of certain political party or political personae. All the north eastern states were granted statehood under the Congress government beginning from 1963 when the state of Nagaland was created under Pt Nehru, then subsequently under Indira Gandhi the state of Manipur in 1971, Tripura and Meghalaya in 1972, while Rajiv Gandhi during his Prime Minister-ship granted statehood to Mizoram in 1985 and Arunachal Pradesh in 1987.
The first State Government in Manipur, Tripura and Assam were formed by the Indian National Congress. While the first state government in Nagaland , Meghalaya ,and Mizoram, under the good will of the INC were formed by Local Political party such as Naga Nationalist Organization, All Party Hill Leaders’ Conference and Mizo National Front, respectively. The only North East state of Arunachal Pradesh’s first state assembly in 1975 till 1979 has a national party the Janata Party led Government. The period when Indira Gandhi was vote out of power and the fall of the INC in the centre. The Janata Party also formed the state government in Assam in 1978 – 79, and a five month government in Tripura in 1977. Other National level party such as Samata Party came to power for a year in Manipur in 2001. Currently, Tripura has  the Communist Party of India ( Marxist) government.
Liberty Institute, New Delhi- April 3,2014

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