Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju of the Bharatiya Janata Party, who is seeking a third term from the Arunachal West Parliamentary constituency, acknowledges that he has a difficult fight on his hands as he faces Congress candidate and two-time Chief Minister Nabam Tuki.

“My fight with him is on political grounds, not anything personal,” The Hindu had quoted Rijiju as saying.

However, the BJP candidate had also said that Tuki, who has been in politics for 25 years, should now pave the way for others. “It is my duty to do for the people what Tuki could not do and there is no reason that Tuki should come back to show his mettle,” Rijiju had said in April, according to The Times of India.

The constituency is one of two Lok Sabha seats from Arunachal Pradesh. The National People’s Party has fielded Khyoda Apik, while the Janata Dal (Secular) has fielded the state’s first woman candidate for a Lok Sabha seat – Jarjum Ete.

Polling for the 60-seat Arunachal Pradesh Assembly was held simultaneously with the state’s two Lok Sabha seats on April 11. However, following reports of malfunctioning of electronic voting machines and attacks on poll officials, the Election Commission ordered repolling across 13 polling booths in Arunachal West Lok Sabha seat.

Tuki was ousted from the chief minister’s post in 2016 after a rebellion in the Congress party. He blames the BJP for that situation. “The people will not forget the BJP for sabotaging the democratically-elected Congress government to forcibly plant the saffron flag,” Tuki had said, according to The Hindu.

The Citizenship Bill

The BJP has been criticised across the North East for the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, which seeks to grant citizenship to Hindu, Sikh, Parsi, Jain, Buddhist and Christian refugees from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan if they have lived in India for six years, even if they do not possess the necessary documents. Several BJP allies in the region have publicly opposed the Bill.

However, Rijiju has insisted that the BJP would keep the North East out of the purview of the Bill even if it is implemented elsewhere in the country.

Rijiju had stoked controversy in August 2017 after he claimed that all Rohingya Muslims living in India are illegal immigrants and that central government aims to deport them. “As far as we are concerned, they are all illegal immigrants,” he told Reuters in an interview. “They have no basis to live here. Anybody who is illegal migrant will be deported.”

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