NEW DELHI, April 7 (Xinhua) -- Voters in northeastern India kicked off the country's general elections on Monday, the first day of the nine-phase polling to elect a new government in India.
Some six constituencies in two northeastern states of Assam, ruled by the Congress party, and Tripura, ruled by the Communist Party (Marxist)-led Left Front, went to the polls Monday morning, which began at 7 a.m. (local time) and would continue till 5 p.m. (local time).
But, India's northeastern states -- which also include Manipur, Mizoram, Meghalaya and Nagaland -- are said to be the country's most neglected region.
Experts say that isolation and years of neglect by the Indian government have fueled underdevelopment, occasional tribal unrest and insurgency in the region, thus hampering the overall growth of the northeastern states.
"Most of the states in the northeast are underdeveloped. A number of state capitals don't have an airport and there is also a dearth of railway connectivity in the region, even after over six decades of Independence from the British," said Prof. Ajay Singh, a Delhi-based political analyst.
He added: "New Delhi is to be blamed for the underdevelopment. The region is isolated from the mainland and the Indian government never did anything concrete to bring it closer to other parts of the country where there has been economic development."
According to the experts, tea, plywood and crude oil are abundant in the northeastern states.
"The region produces two-thirds of the country's tea. But not a small portion of the profits from these three sectors have been properly reinvested for the development of the isolated region. So the states lack industrial growth, thus fueling unemployment," said Prof. Rajan Roy, another political analyst.
Tribal unrest has been occasional in the region -- the reason was that the Indian government officials are not at all trusted by the local tribal population, Prof. Roy added.
"Insurgency is another area of concern. There are a number of insurgent groups in the region. While some want separate land, some have been fighting for autonomy, and some want independence from India. Years of apathy and underdevelopment led to the insurgency," said Prof. Singh.
During every election, all the major political parties -- the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) -- assure development of the region, plagued by unemployment and rampant corruption, but only time will tell whether the people trust the national parties anymore.
The nine-phase polling ends on May 12 and results will be announced on May 16.
Some 814 million Indians are eligible to vote in the elections, nearly 100 million more than in 2009. And, for the first time, the voters have the option to reject all candidates by pressing the ' none of the above' option on electronic voting machines.
While 64-year-old Narendra Modi is BJP's prime ministerial aspirant, 43-year-old Rahul Gandhi is the ruling Congress party's contender for the top job. A third party, the anti-graft Aam Aadmi Party led by former civil servant-turned-politician Arvind Kejriwal, is also in the fray.
Opinion polls have suggested that the BJP is likely to get the maximum number of seats and likely to form the next government in India while the Congress is facing its worst-ever defeat due to its alleged involvement in a number of corruption scandals and inability to control inflation.
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This is the reason why both the ruling Congress party and the country's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as well as their prime ministerial aspirants, Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi have campaigned hard for the youth vote bank in this year's poll, experts noted. Full story
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