Stage set for Assam first phase elections

(Poll Curtain Raiser)


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Guwahati : The battle lines are drawn in Assam with the ruling Congress party pitted against a fractured opposition as the stage is all set for the first phase of elections April 4 in 62 of the 126 constituencies.

“We are ready to conduct the first phase of voting in 62 seats with poll officials already in place and hopeful of a free and peaceful polling,” Assam’s chief electoral officer H. Narzary said.

An estimated 485 candidates are in the fray for the first phase of whom 38 are women.

The Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party has fielded 62 candidates each for the first phase, while the Asom Gana Parishad has put up 51 nominees. There are 157 independent candidates in the fray for this phase.

The second phase voting is on April 11 in the remaining 64 constituencies. Results are due May 13.

More than 30,000 police and paramilitary troopers are deployed for the first phase with authorities not taking any chances despite a general lull in the insurgency front.

“We are hopeful of a peaceful election this time and all measures were being taken to ensure that militants and other elements are not able to sabotage the poll process,” a senior Assam police official said.

Among the prominent candidates whose fate would be sealed in the first phase vote include Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, Power Minister Pradyut Bordoloi, state BJP president Ranjit Dutta, and senior AGP leader Brindaban Goswami.

“I am more than 100 percent confident the Congress party would make a political hat trick. We are forming the next government in Assam,” the chief minister told IANS.

The opposition AGP and BJP are fighting the polls alone and both are harping on the theme of corruption and lack of development in the state.

“People of Assam want a change and a change for the better as they are fed up with the misrule and corruption during the last 10 years of Congress rule in the state. The BJP is emerging as a viable alternative and we hope to form the next government,” BJP state president Ranjit Dutta told IANS.

The AGP too is equally confident of ousting the Congress party.

“We the AGP are the only party that caters to the regional aspirations and hence we are sure people of Assam would give us a chance to rule the state by throwing out the Congress,” AGP president Chandra Mohan Patowary said.

Unlike in the past where the shadow of insurgency looms large over every elections, the run up to the elections this time has been peaceful with most of the rebel groups in peace mode.

The anti-talk faction of the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), however, has asked people to vote out the Congress party, although there was no boycott call for the elections like in previous polls.

The second phase vote April 11 would decide the fate of 496 candidates.