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Assam's first phase Lok Sabha poll heading for straight contest

Kaliabar, a Congress stronghold, was previously represented by former Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, his brother Dip Gogoi and now by his son, Gaurav Gogoi.

Assam's first phase Lok Sabha poll heading for straight contest

GUWAHATI: Assam`s five Lok Sabha constituencies, which are all set to open the battle of the ballots in the state on Thursday in the first phase of the Lok Sabha polls, are likely to see a straight contest between the ruling BJP and the Congress.

The constituencies are Kaliabar, Tezpur, Jorhat, Dibrugarh and Lakhimpur.

Although there are seven candidates in the fray for the Kaliabar Lok Sabha seat, the constituency is likely to witness a straight battle between sitting MP Gaurav Gogoi of the Congress and Asom Gana Parishad`s (AGP) Moni Madhab Mahanta. The AGP has forged an alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party to contest the general elections.

Kaliabar, a Congress stronghold, was previously represented by former Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, his brother Dip Gogoi and now by his son, Gaurav Gogoi.

On the other hand, the AGP`s Mahanta had served as Vice President of the powerful All Assam Students` Union (AASU) before joining active politics this year. He is seen as a popular student leader in the Kaliabar area.

For the BJP, winning the Kaliabar seat will mean ending the Gogoi`s dynastic rule in the constituency.

Similarly, the Tezpur constituency is also heading for a straight contest between BJP candidate Pallab Lochan Das, the state`s Labour Minister, and former bureaucrat MGVK Bhanu fielded by the Congress.

The Tezpur seat used to be a Congress stronghold but that changed with the victory of the AGP`s Joseph Toppo in 2009. In the 2014 polls, BJP`s Ram Prasad Sarmah won against Toppo.

Replacing Sarmah, who hails from the Gorkha community in the state, has upset his supporters. But fielding Das, who comes from the tea garden community, is in the interest of the community`s voters in Tezpur, a major deciding factor in the constituency.

Meanwhile, Bhanu is banking on his contribution towards the small tea growers in Assam while he was the chairman of the Tea Board of India. Tezpur has a substantial number of small tea growers, who could play a major role in the forthcoming polls.

A 1985 batch IAS officer, Bhanu has made Assam his second home even after his retirement and has been appreciated for his contributions.

The Jorhat constituency also used to be a Congress stronghold with the late MP Bijoy Krishna Handique winning the seat for six consecutive terms since 1991. The seat was won in the 2014 polls by the BJP`s Kamakhya Prasad Tasa.

The BJP has however, replaced Tasa this time due to a strong anti-incumbency factor working against him in Jorhat and gave the party ticket to the state`s Power Minister, Topon Gogoi.

According to BJP sources, replacing Tasa was a well planned move to quell the peoples` opposition to the saffron party over the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016. With a sizable Tai Ahom electorate in the constituency, the BJP believes that the Bill might affect its poll prospects in Jorhat and that a new face might help the party.

The Congress is banking on former legislator Sushanta Borgohain to regain lost ground for the party. 

In Dibrugarh, there is a straight battle between the BJP`s sitting MP Rameswar Teli and Congress veteran Paban Singh Ghatowar. Both Teli and Ghatowar hail from the tea community.

Congress` Anil Borgohain will fight it out with sitting BJP MP Pradan Baruah in Lakhimpur.