Assam assembly election Phase 1: Polling begins in 47 seats, tea belt holds key
Voting for the crucial first phase of Assam polls began on Saturday with voters queuing up outside polling stations early to beat the heat and rush.
Polling is being held in a total of 47 seats in 11 districts, especially in the tea belt of Upper Assam. The outcome of the first phase is expected to be crucial for both the Bharatiya Janata Party-led ruling alliance and the opposition Congress’s grand alliance of seven parties.
A total of 264 candidates including heavyweights like Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal (Majuli), state Congress president Ripun Bora (Gohpur), president of ruling Asom Gana Parishad Atul Bora (Bokakhat), Raijor Dal president Akhil Gogoi (Sivasagar) and Assam Jatiya Parishad president Lurinjyoti Gogoi (Duliajan and Nahakatia) are in the fray in the first phase.
Significantly, there are only 23 women candidates in the first phase. Prominent among them are Ajanta Neog, sitting Congress MLA and former minister from Golaghat Ajanta Neog who joined BJP recently and is contesting from the saffron party and popular actress Angoorlata Deka who will try to retain her seat in Batadroba for the BJP.
A total of 8.1 million voters including 124 transgender voters would exercise their ballot at 11,537 polling stations of which 479 are all women polling stations.
While BJP is contesting in 39 of the 47 seats in the first phase, its ally AGP will contest in 10 seats (there would be ‘friendly contest’ between the allies in two seats). On the other hand Congress will contest in 43 seats and newly formed AJP in 41 seats.
The seats in the first phase would be important for BJP, if they have to achieve their target of winning over 100 of the total 126 seats in assembly. In 2016, the BJP-AGP combine had won 35 of the 47 seats helping the saffron party to come to power for the first time in Assam.
Constituencies in the first phase fall in the tea belt and both BJP and Congress have tried their best to woo the tea-tribe community whose votes play a decisive role in 35-40 seats in the first phase.
Besides several schemes for the community launched by the state government, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union home minister Amit Shah, BJP national president JP Nadda and Union defence minister Rajnath Singh addressed several rallies in the state where they promised more schemes for them in coming days.
The Congress has also announced a guarantee of increasing daily wages of tea garden workers to ₹365 if it comes to power and the party’s leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra have tried their best to reach out to the tea-tribe community.