Polling for the first phase of the Assam assembly elections began at 7 am on Saturday for 47 constituencies across 12 districts of the state.
Over 81.09 lakh voters, including 40,77,210 males and 40,32,481 females, are eligible to cast their votes at 1,1537 polling stations in this phase. The polling will continue till 6 pm.
A total of 264 candidates are in the fray for 47 seats — 42 seats from 11 districts of Upper Assam and northern Assam region and five seats from central Assam’s Nagaon district.
Out of these, 37 sitting MLAs are re-contesting including 24 from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), six each from Congress and Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), and one from the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF).
The Election Commission (EC) has made adequate arrangements and taken precautionary measures amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
A total of 375 companies of security personnel including both central and state armed police forces like the Central Armed Police Force (CRPF) and State Armed Police (SAP) of other states have been deployed for the polls. 300 units will be active during the first phase.
Key candidates for this phase of polling include incumbent Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal in Majuli. Sonowal had wrested the seat from Congress’ Rajib Lochan Pegu in the 2016 assembly elections. Pegu, who had won the seat for three straight terms since 2001, has again been fielded by Congress.
Assembly Speaker Hitendra Nath Goswami is in the poll battle from Jorhat, ministers Ranjit Dutta from Behali, Naba Kumar Doley from Jonai and Sanjoy Kishan from Tinsukia.
The fate of ministers from NDA ally AGP — Atul Bora from Bokakhat and Keshab Mahanta from Kaliabor — will also be sealed.
Congress’ Ripun Bora is trying his luck from the Gohpur seat, where his wife Monika Bora lost in the 2016 polls. The 60-year-old leader will face sitting BJP MLA Utpal Bora.
The BJP is banking on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s governance, central public welfare schemes, and the image of Sonowal to retain power.
The Congress is heading into the political battleground against the ruling party, bringing the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) to the fore.
In 2016, the BJP and its ally AGP had swept the elections in the region by winning 35 of these seats. The BJP alone had bagged 27 seats. Congress could manage to win only 9 seats despite securing nearly the same vote percentage.
Till 2014 Lok Sabha, Upper Assam area was dominated by the Congress but the matric changed after popular leader Himanta Biswa Sarma shifted his base to BJP from Congress.
Over the last few days, the seats going to polls in this phase witnessed election rallies by Prime Minister Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, and BJP chief JP Nadda. From the Congress’ side, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra were among top leaders who tried to woo voters.
For the three-phase assembly elections, there are 126 constituencies across 33,530 polling stations covering more than 2.33 crore electors in the state.
Polling for the next two phases will be held on April 1 and April 6. The counting of votes will take place on May 2.