Assam geared up for final phase of polling on 40 seats

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Guwahati: Voting begins for 2nd phase of Assam assembly polls.
Guwahati: Voting begins for 2nd phase of Assam assembly polls.

Assam is geared up to hold the third and final phase of assembly elections on 40 of the total of 126 assembly seats on Tuesday when the electoral fate of 337 candidates including 25 women aspirants would be decided. Tuesday’s electoral battle is crucial for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the opposition Congress as both the parties had won 11 seats each in 2016 assembly polls.

BJP’s ally Asom Gana Parishad last time bagged four seats while Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) and All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) had secured eight and six seats respectively. Both the BPF and the AIUDF this time are allies of the Congress-led ‘Mahajot’ (grand alliance). In the last elections the BPF was with the BJP and the AIUDF fought the polls independently.

The third phase of polling in western Assam’s 12 districts would decide the political fate of BJP’s points man and Finance, Health, Education, PWD Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and ruling party’s state President Ranjeet Kumar Dass. Sarma, convener of the BJP backed North East Democratic Alliance, is contesting from the Jalukbari seat from where he consistently won since 2001 while Dass is contesting from Patacharkuchi seat. In the last elections in 2016, he was elected to the assembly from the Sorbhog constituency.

Assam Chief Electoral Officer Nitin Khade said that all preparations have been completed to conduct free, fair, peaceful and smooth elections on Tuesday, when 79,19,641 voters including 39,07,963 women electorates are eligible to cast their votes across 9,587 polling stations in 6,107 locations. Of the 9,587 polling stations, 316 are all women managed polling stations.

Khade told the media that around 32,000 Central Armed Police Forces, along with thousands of state security force personnel, have been deployed to maintain law and order during this phase in which 45,604 polling personnel were engaged to conduct the polls. 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 campaigned for party candidates.

Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, former Maharashtra CM Ashok Chavan, former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath, party spokesman Gourav Vallabh and General Secretary Randeep Singh Surjewala were among the leaders who campaigned for their party candidates.

During the campaign, the BJP highlighted the “perfect NRC (National Register of Citizens)” while the main opposition Congress gave top priority to the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, even as both the national parties had common issues of empowerment of women, jobs to youth and protecting the Assamese culture.

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 Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) remains an ally. To take on the BJP, the Congress, which governed Assam for 15 consecutive years (2001-2016), formed a 10-party ‘Mahajot’ (grand alliance), also comprising three Left parties — the CPI-M, the CPI and the CPI-ML, along with the AIUDF, the Anchalik Gana Morcha, the BPF, the Rashtriya Janata Dal and two community-based parties — the Jimochayan (Deori) People’s Party and Adivasi National Party.

Nearly 81 per cent of the 73,44,631 voters exercised their franchise in the second phase of polling in Assam on April 1 in the 39 constituencies. Around 80 per cent of 81,09,815 voters cast their votes on March 27 in the first phase of polling in 47 constituencies. The results will be declared on May 2.

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