Campaign for first phase polls end in Assam

The high-voltage campaign for 62 Assembly constituencies in Assam going to the polls in the first phase on April 4 ended here on Saturday with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressing two rallies.

Last Updated: Apr 02, 2011, 18:15 PM IST

Guwahati: The high-voltage campaign for 62 Assembly constituencies in Assam going to the polls in the first phase on April 4 ended here on Saturday with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressing two rallies.

The campaign was high pitched on the last day despite a bandh call given by the Paresh Barua-led anti-talk faction of ULFA to protest the Prime Minister`s visit, bad weather in some areas and the World Cup cricket final with candidates making hectic last minute efforts to woo the voters in the constituencies spread over 13 districts.

An electorate of 85,09,011, comprising 43,91,895 males and 41,17,116 females will decide the fate of 485 candidates (447 males and 38 female) including Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi.

A triangular contest between the ruling Congress, BJP and AGP is likely in most constituencies which include 15 in the Barak Valley, five in the two hill districts of Karbi Anglong and North Cachar Hills district, eight in Sonitpur and the remaining 34 in Upper Assam districts of Dhemaji, Golaghat, Sibsagar, Dibrugarh, Tinsukia, Lakhimpur and Jorhat.

The ruling Congress though burdened with an anti-incumbency factor is expecting to enter the Assembly for the third consecutive term with the Prime Minister, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee among others batting for Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi`s achievements during the last 10 years.

The BJP, in particular, put in an aggressive campaign with almost all senior national leaders including former deputy prime minister LK Advani, party president Nitin Gadkari, Leaders of Opposition in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, former party President M
Venkaiah Naidu, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and Jharkhand Chief Minister Arjun Munda.

The AGP`s campaign was muted with party president Chandramohan Patowary and former chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta pitching in for candidates in the party strongholds.

The BJP brought in the glamour quotient with Bollywood stars Hema Malini and Shatrughan Sinha and television star Smriti Irani campaigning in different constituencies while the Congress had only Raj Babbar to canvass for the party.

The issues on which the different parties campaigned were varied with Congress leaders highlighting the development of the state, various schemes introduced during the last 10 years, initiating peace talks with ULFA and utter chaos and economic mismanagement during AGP rule.

The BJP and AGP harped mostly on corruption issues, particularly on the multi-crore funds diversion scam in North Cachar Hills, and alleged failure of the Congress to solve the issues of foreigners` influx, flood, erosion and neglect of the weaker sections, particularly the tea tribe community.

The banned ULFA, which has been calling for a boycott of all polls for the last three decades, has not done so this time with a section led by Chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa coming for talks but Paresh Barua anti-talk faction has threatened Congress workers.

Political parties, however, did not make insurgency a major issue in the just concluded poll campaigning.

Among the prominent candidates in the fray in the first phase are Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi from Titabor, Assembly Speaker Tanka Bahadur Rai from Barchalla, Deputy Speaker Pranati Phukan from Naharkatiya, Power Minister Pradyut Bordoloi from Margherita, PWD Minister Ajanta Neog from Golaghat, Culture and Sports Minister Bharat Narah from Dhakuakhana, Minister for Food and Civil Supplies Nurjamal Sarkar from Bishwanath, Public Health Department Minister Dinesh Prasad Goala from Lakhipur and Handloom and Law Minister Pranab Gogoi from Sibsagar.

BJP state unit president Ranjit Dutta from Bihali, former AGP President Brindabon Goswami from Tezpur, controversial sitting independent MLAs and former ULFA militants Jiten Deuri from Bokakhat and Kushal Dowari from Thowra, and ASDC leader Mohit Hojai, currently in jail in connection with NC Hills funds diversion scam, are also in the fray.

In the first phase, the electorate will exercise their franchise in 11,264 polling stations. A total of 2,033 booths have been identified as hyper sensitive, 2,985 sensitive and 817 hamlets as vulnerable.

Altogether 346 companies of central paramilitary forces have been deployed for the polls with 65 to 75 percent of polling stations, including most of the critical ones will be covered by the central paramilitary forces and the rest by police, micro-observers and video-cameras.

PTI