Voting begins for second phase of Assam assembly election

Polling for the second and penultimate phase of Assam assembly polls began at 7 am on Thursday to decide the fate of 345 candidates in 39 constituencies across 13 districts.

The high-octane poll campaign for the second phase ended on Tuesday with all the players including the ruling NDA, Congress-led Mahajath making hard efforts to woo voters. The polling began at 7 am.

The main contest is seen to be between the alliances led by BJP and Congress.

The BJP-led alliance also includes the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and United People’s Party Liberal (UPPL).

Congress has stitched a broad alliance that includes All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), Communist Party of India, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation, the Anchalik Gana Marcha (AGM) and the Bodoland Peoples’ Front (BPF).Jailed activist Akhil Gogoi’s Raijor Dal has stitched an alliance with Assam Jatiya Parishad.

The election in the second phase includes 15 assembly seats in the Barak Valley. In the 2016 polls, BJP had bagged eight seats – six from Cachar district and two from bordering Karimganj district, which shares a boundary with Bangladesh.

Over 73.44 lakh voters are eligible to cast their votes in the second phase of the election. Of them, 37,34,537 are male voters and 36,09,959 are female voters, while 135 are third gender voters.The voting will be held on 8,998 polling stations and 556 of them are all-women polling stations.

A total of 310 Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) companies and 90 companies of Assam state police have been deployed for the second phase of polling.

The BJP is banking on the performance of the Sarbanand Sonowal government in the state in the past five years, the initiatives of the central government and the appeal of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.The Mahajath leaders also campaigned extensively in the second phase seats.

The second phase saw the debate over Citizenship Amendment Act. While the BJP leaders said that they will implement CAA, Congress has promised to “nullify it”.

Apart from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, senior BJP leaders including union ministers Amit Shah, Smriti Irani, Jitendra Singh, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan were among those who campaigned in the state. Senior state BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma also extensively campaigned.

The BJP has been targeting Congress over its alliance with AIUDF and has been raising the issue of infiltration. Party leaders have said that Congress has allied with those who have “favoured infiltration”.

The party has also promised to free the state of the problem of recurrent floods.

“We want to make Assam free from floods. Satellite mapping will be done, reservoirs will be created. We want to make every village in the State ‘aatmanirbhar’,” Nadda said at a public meeting in Dharmapur on Tuesday.

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had made a video appeal to voters of Assam ahead of the polls. Party leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra have also campaigned in the state. Gandhi was scheduled to reach Assam on Tuesday for the second phase campaign but the visit got cancelled due to bad weather.

The Congress has promised five lakh government jobs to youth in five years, 200 units of free electricity, taking the daily- wage of tea garden workers to Rs 365 and Rs 2,000 per month to homemakers.

Congress has also made representations to the poll panel for alleged violation of the model code of conduct by BJP leaders.

Assam Minister Parimal Suklabaidya is contesting from the Dholai seat for the seventh time on a BJP ticket. State minister Piyush Hazarika is contesting from Jagiroad and Bhabesh Kalita, also a minister, from the Rangia seat.

Former Congress minister Gautam Roy is contesting from Katigorah on a BJP ticket, while former Deputy Speaker Dilip Kumar Paul, who resigned from the BJP after he was denied ticket, is contesting as an Independent from Silchar.

Rajya Sabha MP Biswajit Daimary is contesting from Panery and former Asam Sahitya Sabha President Paramananda Rajbongshi is trying his luck from Sipajhar.

Former Assam Minister for Hill Areas Development, Mines and Minerals and Congress leader Sum Ronghang is in the fray from the Diphu seat.

The BJP formed its first party-led government in Assam after the 2016 elections. BJP and its allies won 86 out of 126 seats ousting the Tarun Gogoi-led Congress government which ruled the state for 15 years.

Polling for the last phase will be held on April 6 and counting of votes will take place on May 2. The first phase took place on March 27 and recorded a voter turnout of nearly 77 per cent.

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