The porous borders and Bangaldeshi migrants have been a permanent poll issue in the Northeast.
Landlocked by China, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Bhutan, nothing scares the Northeast more than troublesome international boundaries. If the electoral focus is on illegal influx from across the border with Bangladesh, the major worry in the areas near Bhutan and Myanmar is the movement of militants.
The picture in Arunachal Pradesh, which shares a 1,030 km unfenced border with China, is quite different.
With only two Lok Sabha seats — Arunachal West and Arunachal East, area-wise the fourth and fifth largest after Ladakh, Barmer and Kutch — this 83,743 sq km fringe state has never been a political powerhouse. But it has been at the centre of New Delhi’s diplomatic ties with Beijing.
China has often staked claim on Arunachal as part of the Tibetan Autonomous Region. India has rubbished the claim every time with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh labeling the state as “our land of the rising sun” last year.
That line had irked Beijing. A year on, the same statement has given the BJP — it holds both seats in Arunachal — a poll issue to put down the Congress. And the person making the most of it is sitting Arunachal West MP Kiren Rijiju (37).
From Tawang, 580 km west of Itanagar, to Along, 320 km east, Rijiju never tires of reminding which party is more serious about the terrestrial fate of the people. “Unlike the BJP, the Congress never takes a strong stand against China’s claim,” he said.
His 42-year-old Congress rival and former students’ leader Takam Sanjoy allays fears of a Chinese takeover. “We are Indians at heart, and we don’t need to poke a dragon to let the world know that,” he said at Nacho, the last major settlement near the Indo-China border 750 km from Itanagar. “Besides, this is something for New Delhi to iron out. We should rather focus on our troublesome inter-state border with Assam.” Assam and Arunachal Pradesh have been locked in a bitter territorial dispute for years.
“Rijiju should first think about the BJP’s fate before unnecessarily scaring the people with his China tirade,” Pradesh Congress general secretary TC Tok told the Hindustan Times. “He should remember that candidates who don’t belong to the ruling party have never won in Arunachal.”
Locals, however, are not amused by the “international politics.” No one promises to outdo each other in improving the quality of life in Arunachal, said the self-employed A. Bamang (35).