Ahead of the assembly and Lok Sabha elections in Arunachal Pradesh, and following the unanimous nomination of Nitish Kumar as Janata Dal (United) president, the party has grabbed attention in Arunachal Pradesh by announcing its candidate for the Arunachal West Lok Sabha seat. The Punch has decided to delve deeper into the electoral history of the Arunachal West Lok Sabha seat, exploring trends that may impact the upcoming 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
JDU has maintained a presence in Arunachal Pradesh over the years, although it is not currently enjoying its golden days. While the INDIA Alliance, of which JDU (United) is a significant part, is still deciding on seat sharing, the party declared the state president of its Arunachal Unit, Ruhi Tangung, as the candidate for the West Arunachal Lok Sabha seat. The party also announced its participation in the upcoming assembly elections in the state, expected around the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. The West Arunachal Lok Sabha seat is currently held by BJP heavyweight and Union Minister Kiren Rijiju.
This sets the stage for a competitive battle between JDU state president Ruhi Tangung and BJP’s popular face, Union Minister Kiren Rijiju, who secured this Parliament seat in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections for the third time with 63.67% of votes. JDU faces the challenge of convincing its key India Alliance ally, Congress, to cede the seat. Congress holds a strong electoral presence in this Lok Sabha seat after BJP. This article focuses on identifying trends from past elections and delves into the electoral history of the seat.
Electoral Geography of the Seat:
Arunachal West is one of the only two Lok Sabha seats in the state. In the last Lok Sabha elections in 2019, the total reported voters were 463,775, with 358,310 valid votes—significantly higher than the 2014 numbers of 446,640 voters.
The Lok Sabha constituency covers the entire districts of Tawang, West Kameng, East Kameng, Papum Pare, Lower Subansiri, Kurung Kumey, Upper Subansiri, and West Siang. It comprises 33 Assembly segments out of the total 60 segments of the state assembly, including seats held by ministers in the BJP cabinet of CM Pema Khandu. Of these 33 seats, 30 have BJP MLAs, while one is held by Congress and two by Meghalaya CM Conrad Sangma-led regional party NPP.
Electoral History of West Arunachal Lok Sabha Seat:
Since the first Lok Sabha elections in 1977, after the formation of Arunachal Pradesh as a full-fledged state, the seat has witnessed 12 Lok Sabha elections until 2019. Congress dominated the seat party-wise from 1977 to 1996, winning for five consecutive terms. The seat’s inaugural election saw Congress candidate Rinching Khandu Khrim emerge victorious. Notably, from 1989 to 1996, the seat was held by then Union Minister and father of the current CM, late Prem Khandu Thungan, who also became India’s youngest CM and served as a union minister, holding various national portfolios.
In 1996, Congress lost the seat to an independent candidate, Tomo Riba. In 1998, Omak Apang of the now-defunct regional party Arunachal Congress (AC) claimed the seat by defeating independent candidate Tomo Riba. Omak Apang held the seat for one year until, in the 1998 elections, it returned to Congress.
Seat Goes to BJP:
In 2004, BJP secured the West Arunachal seat for the first time, with Kiren Rijiju defeating Omak Apang by a substantial margin of 47,424 votes. However, Congress regained the seat in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, with Takam Sanjoy narrowly defeating Kiren Rijiju by only 1314 votes.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, coinciding with the formation of the RSS-backed BJP’s full majority government at the center, the seat came under BJP control and has been held for the last 10 years. These years also witnessed the rise of MP Kiran Rijiju to prominence at the national level, holding crucial union government positions, making him a formidable contender for the upcoming elections.
Past Elections: BJP and Congress:
Without delving into full details, it is essential to examine the electoral and vote distribution of the seat for at least the last two elections since BJP took control to gain insight into the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Kiren Rijiju secured the seat with 2,36,546 votes, capturing 50.77% of the total votes cast. He defeated Congress candidate Takam Sanjoy, who finished second with 1,80,968 votes, accounting for 38.84% of the total vote share.
In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, BJP’s Kiren Rijiju triumphed again with 3,13,052 votes, beating Congress stalwart and former CM Nabam Tuki by a margin of 2,45,220 votes. In that election, BJP held 65.04% of the vote share, while Congress stood at 14.09%. JD(S), NPEP, and PPA garnered the remaining 20% of the total votes.
Examining the fluctuations in the vote share of the two major contenders, Congress and BJP, since 2009 reveals a decline for Congress from 49.01% in 2009 to 14.09% in 2019, while BJP’s vote percentage rose from 48.67% in 2009 to 65.04% in 2019. With BJP’s increasing popularity and its current candidate for the seat, one can anticipate the results unless there are significant changes.
Potential Contenders and Edge:
Whether in Lok Sabha or assembly elections, since BJP assumed power at the center, there has been a noticeable surge in the vote percentage and performance of the party in this election. In the 2019 state assembly elections, BJP secured a majority of assembly segments under the West Arunachal Lok Sabha seat and the entire state, obtaining a vote share of 49.27%. NPP claimed the second spot by winning several seats and securing a vote share of 17.27%, while Congress, reduced to a certain number of seats, held a total vote share of 16.19%.
Given the significance of this seat and its potential impact on the results of the 33 seats in the upcoming assembly elections, observing how all parties involved position themselves will be crucial. As Congress, BJP, and other parties are yet to declare their candidates, it is anticipated that BJP will likely field its popular candidate, Kiren Rijiju, once again. The contest between JDU’s candidate and BJP’s Kiren Rijiju, especially if the INDIA block decides to support JDU (although less likely given Congress’s strength in the seat), will be worth watching. However, all we can do is wait to witness the alliances and party strategies unfold