Guwahati: The stage is all set for the
first phase of Assam assembly polls in 62 of the 126
constituencies to be held amid tight security in 13 districts
Polling personnel assigned to far-flung areas have
already left for their stations since Friday and those near to
the district or sub-divisional headquarters were scheduled to
leave by this evening, official sources said.
A variety of transport like buses, bullock carts and
boats have been pressed into service to transport the polling
personnel but in some remote areas of North Cachar Hills
district the polling party has to trek for three days to reach
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
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
Polling will be held amid tight security in the
backdrop of threat issued by the Paresh Barua faction of the
banned ULFA and also due to possible clashes between
supporters of various candidates as the run-up to the polls
witnessed a few poll-related clashes in some Barak Valley
Altogether 346 companies of central paramilitary
forces have been deployed for the polls with 65 to 75 per cent
of polling stations, including most of the critical ones, will
be covered by central paramilitary forces and the rest by
police, micro-observers and video-cameras.
A triangular contest among ruling Congress, BJP and
AGP was 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.
Campaigning for the first phase, though initially
slow-paced with the major parties beset with dissidence and
dissatisfaction over ticket allotment, became high voltage
during the past one week with star campaigners of the various
parties descending on the state to woo the electorate.
The ruling Congress though burdened with an
anti-incumbency factor is expecting to enter the Assembly for
the third consecutive term with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh,
UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Union Finance Minister Pranab
Mukherjee among others batting for Chief Minister Gogoi by
highlighting his 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 chief M
Venkaiah Naidu, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and
Jharkhand Chief Minister Arjun Munda coming to the state.
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 Left Parties, with CPI and CPI-M contesting 17
seats each in the polls, had senior Politburo members Sitaram
Yechury and Brinda Karat campaigning for the candidates.
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.
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.
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 Gogoi (from Titabor), Assembly
Speaker Tanka Bahadur Rai (Barchalla), Deputy Speaker Pranati
Phukan (Naharkatiya), Power Minister Pradyut Bordoloi
(Margherita), PWD Minister Ajanta Neog (Golaghat), Culture and
Sports Minister Bharat Narah (Dhakuakhana), Minister for Food
and Civil Supplies Nurjamal Sarkar (Bishwanath), Public Health
Department Minister Dinesh Prasad Goala (Lakhimpur) and
Handloom and Law Minister Pranab Gogoi (Sibsagar).
BJP state unit president Ranjit Dutta from Bihali,
former AGP chief 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 from Haflong, currently in jail in connection with
NC Hills funds diversion scam, are also in the fray.
Karimganj (South) in Barak Valley has the highest
number of 25 candidates in the fray while Bokajan in Karbi
Anglong district has the least with only three candidates.