Poll officials trek hours to register two Arunachali votes

Johelum Tayang and his wife Sokela can indeed feel special on Wednesday, as the Election Commission has sent 10 officials to a far-flung village in Arunachal Pradesh just to record the votes of the ‘Below Poverty Line’ couple and make them join the largest democratic exercise of the world.

Tayangs are the only two voters enrolled at the Malogam Polling Station in Anjaw – the easternmost district of the country.

Poll officials trekked for hours through forests and hills to reach the polling station just to make sure that the remote village near the disputed India-China Line of Control is not left out when rest of Arunachal Pradesh will vote on Wednesday to simultaneously elect its two representatives to the Lok Sabha and 49 of the 60 members of its legislative assembly.

The Congress, which has been in power in Arunachal Pradesh, has already won 11 seats in the State Assembly uncontested and is now facing challenges from the Bharatiya Janata Party and other parties in the remaining 49 constituencies.
The BJP is also trying to wrest the state’s two Lok Sabha seats – Arunachal East and Arunachal West – from the Congress.

Tayangs were among a few families who once lived in Malogam – a tiny hamlet about 10 km away from the nearest location accessible by road.

Most of them relocated to more accessible villages over the past few years and number of voters at the polling station in Malogam steadily came down to three in 2009 and just two this year, an official of the local administration told Deccan Herald from Hawai – the district headquarters of Anjaw.

Johelum and Sokela, however, stayed put, relying mostly on yak rearing and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. 

Not only Malogam, the Himalayan state has seven other polling stations with less than 10 voters. It also has 106 polling stations with less than 50 voters.
And the poll officials over the past few days braved difficult terrain to reach every nook and corner of the State by late Tuesday to make sure that even the smallest communities in the State can vote and reassert India’s claim on a territory that China claims to be its own.

The officials had to trek for five days on mountainous dirt-tracks to reach Luguthang, one of the country’s remotest polling stations at an altitude of 13,986 feet, just to register votes of the 32 villagers. Luguthang is part of Mukto Assembly constituency, where Pema Khandu is set to be elected unopposed.

The Election Commission arranged over 90 air sorties in Arunachal Pradesh for transporting men and materials to remote and inaccessible polling stations.
The Congress had won both the seats in Arunachal Pradesh in 2009. It re-nominated the sitting MPs – Takam Sanjay and Ninong Ering – for the West and East seats respectively. The BJP has fielded Kiren Rijiju and Tapir Gao against Sanjay and Ering.

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