Assam turns into fortress ahead of 1st phase of Assembly polls
Guwahati, March 26 (IANS): Tight security arrangements have been put in place across 12 districts in Assam for the first phase of Assembly elections on Saturday when 47 constituencies will face the ballot.
The first phase will decide the fate of 264 candidates, including Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, state Congress chief Ripun Bora and 23 women candidates.
Tea garden workers, tribal voters and first time electorates will play crucial roles in the balloting to the 126-member Assembly seats,
The hectic campaign for the first of the three phases ended on Thursday in Assam along with West Bengal, which also begin polling on the same day for its eight-phase assembly elections.
In the 2016 elections, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-led alliance secured 35 of the 47 seats while the remaining went to the Congress and other parties.
Assam Chief Electoral Officer Nitin Khade said that all arrangements including the webcasting of the polling have been completed to conduct the free, fair, peaceful and smooth elections on Saturday, when 8,109,815 voters, including 4,032,481 females, will cast their votes across 11,537 polling stations mostly covering the eastern part of the state.
“Huge contingent of central and state forces have been deployed to avoid any disturbances. The security also was further strengthens along inter-state and international borders with Assam,” the CEO told the media.
In the first phase of polling, Sonowal, 59, in a multi-cornered contest, is seeking re-election from Majuli, the world’s largest river island, besides state Congress President Ripun Bora, 65, fighting from Gohpur; while Asom Gana Parishad chief and Minister Atul Bora, 60, seeks re-election from Bokakhat, where 11 candidates are in the fray.
In the Saturday’s polling the electoral fortune of several will be tested — Assembly Speaker Hitendra Nath Goswami (Jorhat), Congress Legislature Party leader Debabrata Saikia (Nazira), jailed Raijor Dal President and prominent peasant leader Akhil Gogoi (Sibsagar) and Assam Jatiya Parishad President Lurinjyoti Gogoi (Duliajan).
According to the poll officials, 85-year-old Premadhar Bora is the oldest among the 264 candidates, while there are nine candidates who are 25 years or less. Independent candidate Bora is contesting from the Bihpuria constituency in eastern Assam.
In the month-long hectic election campaign, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, BJP President J.P. Nadda, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and his Madhya Pradesh counterpart Shivraj Singh Chouhan have campaigned extensively for all BJP candidates across the state.
Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, former Maharashtra CM Ashok Chavan, former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath, AICC spokesman Gourav Vallabh and Congress General Secretary Randeep Singh Surjewala were among the central leaders who campaigned for the party candidates in Assam.
In the Assam Assembly elections, the ruling BJP is highlighting the “perfect NRC (National Register of Citizens)” more while the main opposition Congress has given top priority to the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), even as both the national parties have common issues of empowerment of women, jobs to youth and protecting the Assamese culture.
The Congress has promised “Five Guarantees” to the voters in its manifesto, including restarting the process of NRC; repealing the CAA; INR 365 daily wage to tea garden workers; 5 lakh jobs in five years; INR 2,000 per month to housewives and 200 units free electricity per household.
The BJP’s ‘Sankalp Patra’ said that there are 10 main focal issues in the manifesto to be implemented in letter and spirit after the party comes to power for a second term in Assam.
The saffron party’s main promises include controlling floods in Assam, empowering the women under the state’s flagship scheme “Orunodoi”, increasing the monthly payment of INR 830 to INR 3,000 covering 30 lakh deserving families.
The BJP also promised to strengthen and protect ‘Namghars’ and ‘Satras’ (traditional Vaishnavite monasteries of Assam), and provide grants up to INR 2.5 lakh to these traditional institutes.
It also promised to boost the future of Assam’s children by providing free and quality education with trained teachers under the ‘Mission Bala Unnayan’ in state government-run institutions.
After the Bodoland Territorial Council polls in December last year, the BJP had forged an alliance with the United People’s Party Liberal (UPPL) and the Gana Suraksha Party (GSP), discarding its old ally Bodoland People’s Front (BPF). The AGP is the BJP’s second important ally.
During the last assembly election in 2016, the BJP had allied with AGP and BPF, which has three ministers in the Assam cabinet headed by Chief Minister Sonowal.
To take on the ruling BJP in the forthcoming elections, the Congress, which governed Assam for 15 consecutive years (2001-2016), has formed a 10-party ‘Mahajot’ (grand alliance) with three Left parties — CPI (M), CPI and CPI (ML) — along with the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), the Anchalik Gana Morcha, BPF, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and two community-based parties — Jimochayan (Deori) People’s Party (JDPP) and Adivasi National Party (ANP).
The 126-member Assam Assembly will go to the polls in three phases on March 27 (47 seats), April 1 (39 seats) and April 6 (40 seats). The results will be declared on May 2.