As the second phase of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections get underway today, six constituencies in four North Eastern states go to the polls.

The eight North Eastern states are a bit of a paradox: though they are marked with insurgency protest movements of various kinds, they have a higher voting rate than most parts of the country. As a result, the region presents a rather unique case of the protest and participation co-existing.

With a population of over 45 million, the states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Tripura, Manipur, Nagaland, Mizoram and Sikkim have 27 million eligible voters for this general election. Excluding the 14 seats from Assam, the rest of the seven states together send only 13 candidates to the Lok Sabha. In the 2009 elections, the Congress secured 13 seats across the region and has been the dominant party in the region.

Here’s what you need to know about the elections in each of the seven smaller North Eastern states.

Number of seats: 2
Live-wire issues: Inner-line permits for everyone entering the state, unemployment, Church support for candidates.

Shillong constituency goes to polls today with sitting Congress MP Vincent Pala taking on Paul Lingdoh of the regional United Democratic Party and independent candidate Rev PBM Basaiawmoit. Congress candidate Vincent Pala, who is a Catholic as well as from the Jaintia community, ticks all the boxes needed for victory. Besides, Lingdoh and Basaiawmoit are fishing from the same pool of anti-Congress, pro-regional votes. Both of them were active in the pro-ILP (inner line permit) agitation that has rocked the state in recent months, demanding that even Indian citizens must be obtain special travel papers to enter the state.

In the Tura constituency, veteran Purno A Sangma, who has represented the seat in the Lok Sabha eight times, is contesting from National People’s Party in an alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party. He is trying to consolidate the non-Congress votes. Sangma’s former party, the Nationalist Congress Party, has decided to support the Congress candidates from Meghalaya and has not fielded any candidate of its own.

Number of seats: 1
Live-wire issues: Inter-state and international border disputes, refugees and influx issues.

The lone seat, reserved for a member of the scheduled tribes, is held by RC Ruala of the Congress. The Congress prospects seem bright this time too, bolstered by a thumping victory in recent assembly elections in which it won 33 of the 40 assembly seats.

A significant development has been the creation of the United Democratic Front, an initiative by the Mizo National Front to unite eight parties, including the BJP, to form a front against the Congress.

However, what has already created a potential crisis is the announcement of poll boycott and strike by the influential Young Mizo Association and six other NGOs opposing the Election Commissions measure that allowed Riang (Bru) tribal refugees in Tripura's relief camps to vote in Mizoram election through postal ballot. The YMA-led strike has affected the movement of polling officials, forcing the EC to defer the election schedule by three days to April 11.

Number of seats: 1
Live-wire issues: Indo-Naga peace process, corruption allegations, support of the Church.

Three candidates are in the fray for the single seat in Nagaland. The ruling regional outfit, the Naga People’s Front, is in a strong position. It has formed the Democratic Alliance of Nagaland with the BJP, with Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio from the NPF as its candidate. In a state where “Nagaland for Christ” has often been a rallying cry, the Congress has no lost time in attacking what the “communal BJP”. Congress candidate KV Pusa has put special focus on secularism besides peace and prosperity.

Rio has the advantage. He is seen as having the credibility to push forward peace negotiations with insurgents and runs on this strong record as three-time chief minister. However, with some senior NPF members defecting to the Congress, the party is set to challenge the dominance of NPF this election.

Number of seats: 2
Live-wire issues:  Territorial integrity of the state, withdrawal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act, Indo-Naga political dialogue, insurgency.

Eighteen candidates are in the fray for the two seats here, but the sitting Congress MPs seem to be on safe turf, going by the trends of the 2012 Assembly elections. The Congress won hands down, defeating the NPF and the Manipur People's Party to win 42 out of 60 constituencies.  This time, the MPP has entered into alliance with the BJP in the state.

Number of seats: 2
Live-wire issues: Cross-border migration, unemployment, and insurgency.

The Left Front, an alliance consisting of CPI(M), CPI, Forward Block and Revolutionary Socialist Party, heads India’s only Left government. The state’s two seats are yet again tipped to go in their favour. The Left has the advantage because of its development efforts and the measures it has taken to bring peace and security to the state.

However, the Trinamool Congress has tried to make inroads into the state by tapping Tripura’s Bengalis, who form around 60% of the population. Both the Congress and BJP have also tried to bolster their presence in the state, with Narendra Modi dropping by Agartala to address a rally at which he emphasised development and employment prospects under the National Democratic Alliance.

Arunachal Pradesh
Number of seats: 2
Live-wire issues: Completion of hydel-power projects, Chinese aggression, inter-state border disputes unemployment, corruption allegations.

The Congress has been in power in Arunachal since 1980, with a brief gap in 2003. The party has suffered a setback with political heavyweights like former Chief Minister Gagong Apang joining the BJP. Despite this, in the election for the 60-member state assembly which is being held simultaneously with Lok Sabha poll, 11 Congress candidates have already been elected unopposed.

Number of seats: 1
Live-wire issues: allegation of corruption, environmental concerns.

Sikkim’s sole Lok Sabha seat is held by the Sikkim Democratic Front. Going by various opinion polls, the SDF seems set to retain the seat. However, the newly formed Sikkim Krantikari Morcha has united some of the dissenting forces in the state, promising to bring competition to a state in which SDF has had an overwhelming majority for years. Four-time Chief Minister Pawan Chamling has become synonymous with modern Sikkim. In the last state elections, in 2009, Chamling led his party to win all the 32 seats in the assembly.

Sitting MP Prem Das Rai of SDF is pitted against nominees from BJP, Congress, TMC and AAP. The fragmentation of the already near non-existent opposition has created a clear win situation for the sitting MP.