82.33 per cent voting recorded in final phase in Assam

Guwahati, Apr 6 An estimated 82.33 per cent of 79.2

lakh electors voted in the third and last phase of Assam Assembly election in 40 constituencies on Tuesday that largely remained peaceful except for sporadic incidents of violence and disturbances reported from some areas.

The percentage of polling, which took place from 7 am to 6 pm,may increase a bit with the arrival of more information, Joint Chief Electoral Officer Rahul Chandra Das said.

"As per the information available, the poll percentage has been estimated at 82.33 per cent," he added.

Polling percentage in the third round is more than the previous two which saw 79.93 and 80.96 per cent voting respectively.

The South Salmara district witnessed highest polling at 89.49 per cent, followed by Dhubri with 89.20 per cent and Bilasipara (87.07 per cent), official data showed.

Lower polling took place at Kamrup Metropolitan, which comprises the Guwahati city, at 74.42 per cent, followed by Bajali with 77.51 per cent and Baksa (78.22 per cent).

Altogether 337 candidates, including 25 women, are contesting in 40 constituencies in the third phase.

Their fate was sealed by 79,19,641 electors, including 40,11,539 males, 39,07,963 females and 139 transgenders, in 11,401 polling stations.

In the three-phased Assam Assembly polls for 126 constituencies, the state witnessed 79.93 per cent polling on 47 seats during the first phase on March 27 and 80.96 per cent on 39 seats during the second phase on April 1.

During the day, a clash between two groups of public broke out "over some issues", forcing the police to resort to mild lathicharge and firing in the air with no one injured, an official said.

The incident took place at the polling station set up at Dighaltari LP School under Golakganj constituency and the situation is under control with voting continuing normally after a brief halt, the official said.

At the Gutipara booth under the Bilasipara West seat, a group of people attacked security personnel over distribution of free masks and pelted stones at the polling station, leading to lathicharge by the police to control the situation.

Voting was interrupted there for about half-an-hour after which it continued as usual, officials said.

At a polling booth under Bongaigaon constituency, police resorted to lathicharge when a huge crowd had arrived.

Another polling station under the same constituency witnessed "some commotion" when the presiding officer went to help a differently abled person in casting his vote.

However, the situation was brought under control immediately after police intervened, an election official said.

Police detained at least two persons from the polling booth at Kamrup Academy Higher Secondary School in Guwahati for allegedly distributing BJP pamphlets carrying minister Siddhartha Bhattacharya's pictures inside the centre.

A total of around 10 persons have been detained from different parts of the constituencies witnessing voting on Tuesday, officials said.

EVM malfunctioning was reported from several polling centres but after the machines were replaced, voting resumed there, an Election official said without sharing the number of units replaced.

A direct contest between nominees of the BJP-led NDA and Congress-headed Grand Alliance is on the cards in 20 constituencies, while there is a triangular fight, including friendly contests, in the remaining seats with the Assam Jatiya Parishad (AJP) being considered as the third force.

The newly-floated AJP is contesting on 22 seats, while there are 126 independents in the fray in the final phase of polls,in which BJP-led alliance is fighting on 37 seats.

The Grand Alliance has put up 45 candidates, including friendly contests between Congress and AIUDF on five seats.

The fate of 20 sitting MLAs -- eight from the Congress, five from the BJP, three each from the AIUDF and the BPF, and one from the AGP -- will be decided in this round.

BJP ministers Himanta Biswa Sarma,Chandra Mohan Patowary, Siddhartha Bhattacharya and Phani Bhusan Choudhury were in the fray in this phase.

The electoral future of BPF ministers Chandan Brahma and Pramila Rani Brahma along with BJP state chief Ranjeet Kumar Dass were also sealed Tuesday.

Voters wearing masks were seen queuing up outside polling booths with some maintaining distance by standing in marked circles across the 12 districts in lower Assam.

However,most of the voters in rural areas were not observing any COVID-19 protocol and were seen huddling in groups.

The voters who did not have masks were provided with one, besides a disposable plastic gloves before they were allowed to enter the polling booths.

The first voters at the polling centres were greeted with saplings and the senior citizens with 'gamochas' (traditional Assamese scarf).

For the convenience of the senior citizens and physically challenged voters, arrangements for wheelchairs and e- rickshaws were made at many of the booths.

The model polling stations have a children's play zone, seating lounge, selfie zone and muppets. Many of the booths also had seating areas, in rainbow shades, themed on inclusivity and LGBTQ rights.

Many polling centres were decorated with recyclable items, having art installations made with bottles and plastic wrappers among others.

Ethnic fabric and handicraft items were on display in many polling centres, besides mannequins wearing tribal attires put up at the selfie zones.

Assamese festival of Bihu, which is just 10 days away, was also a popular theme in several polling booths.

Assam elections: To BJP or not to BJP? Bodoland’s dilemma

Amidst the national party's growing footprint and sidelining of a familiar stalwart, new aspirations jostle old fears among Assam's largest tribal group.

On April 1, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi took the stage to address a large rally in Kokrajhar town in the Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR), Honok Khaklary, a 40-year-old Bodo car mechanic, was among those cheering.

“It’s great that the United People’s Party Liberal (UPPL) has gone with the BJP. Hagrama (Mohilary, leader of the Bodoland People’s Front) has done nothing for us. Roads, water supply, infrastructure… all need development in the region. The BJP will bring progress, peace,” said Khaklary.

The single largest tribal community in Assam, Bodos constitute over 5-6% of its population. Following years of insurgency, the narrative in the Bodoland region is now seeing a major churn, as the BJP tries to make an entry.

 

The BTR, spread over four districts — Kokrajhar, Baksa, Udalguri and Chirang — and comprising at least 12 seats, votes on April 6. Covered by Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, that provides autonomy in administration to certain tribal areas in the Northeast, the BTR is governed by the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC).

All the 12 seats are currently held by the BPF, led by Hagrama Mohilary, a former militant-turned politician. An ally of the BJP in the outgoing government, with three Cabinet ministers, the BPF parted ways with the party before the polls and is now allied with the Congress-led Mahajot. The BJP has a new Bodo ally, the UPPL, led by Promod Boro, the former president of the All Bodo Students Union (ABSU).

While the BJP is contesting four Assembly seats falling in the BTR, the UPPL will contest the remaining eight. The two parties are also in ‘friendly’ contests in three seats — in a bid to cut the vote of the BPF. The only seat where the UPPL is not in the contest thus is Panery, where the BJP has fielded ex-BPF leader Biswajit Daimary.

Apart from these 12 seats, the BPF will be a factor in 18 others with large Bodo numbers.

 

On paper, the Mahajot has a more solid alliance, having sewn up both the Bodo vote, with the BPF, and the Bengali-speaking Muslim vote, courtesy Badruddin Ajmal’s AIUDF. The two communities have historically been opposed to each other.

Having been chairman of the BTC since it was formed in 2003 following a peace accord with the Centre, till 2020, the popularity of Hagrama, referred to as ‘Chief’, is unparalleled in the region. A functionary of the BPF in Kokrajhar says, “Chief sir is like a god to us.”

But the 17 years of anti-incumbency has caught on, even as the UPPL rides on the BJP promise of development and claims of “inclusiveness”. In a highly publicised event in early 2020, the Modi government had signed a peace accord with Bodo insurgent outfits following which over 1,600 cadres of militant outfit NDFB had laid down arms. Boro of the UPPL was among the signatories.

In the BTC elections that followed, in December 2020, out of the 40 seats, the UPPL had won 12, the BJP nine (up from 1 in 2015), the BPF 17, the Congress 1 (who later joined the BJP) and another party called the GSP 1. The BJP had joined hands with the UPPL and GSP to deny the BPF power.

U G Brahma, a former Rajya Sabha MP and the UPPL founder, says they are confident of winning 11 of the 12 seats. “Hagrama does not have a base, he will bank on the Congress and AIUDF,” Brahma says. “People also have a pro-government tendency now. We are in power in the BTC and the BJP-led alliance will form the state government. People tend to vote for the alliance which will win.”

Also at Modi’s Kokrajhar rally was Santosh Rabha, a 31-year-old graduate belonging to the Rabha community who is looking for a job. “The UPPL is not dividing people or talking only about the Bodo community,” he said. “They are taking about all communities living in Bodoland. Hagrama’s politics is divisive and Bodo-centric. That thinking has been responsible for bloodshed in Bodoland.”

This sentiment is shared across communities. In Bijni town of Chirang district, which has a large Bengali-speaking population, Shukomol Mollick, a Bengali local UPPL leader, says, “Non-Bodo communities of the BTR have found acceptance in the UPPL.”

The BPF disputes this, while defending the AIUDF’s presence in the Mahajot. Senior BPF leader Kampa Borgoyary, says, “It’s the BJP’s propaganda that we are only about Bodos… Should we not ally with the AIUDF only because Muslims support it?”

BPF leaders also caution that the BJP’s bid for power in the BTC, as well as keeping four Assembly seats for itself, are signs that it will eventually take over the UPPL, as it has done with other allies.

 

In a market in Sidli in Chirang district, Phinal Basumatary, 31, says, “The BJP wants everything for itself. Sab chahiye. They want to swallow all kinds of regional politics — and that’s very scary.”

Says the BPF’s Borgoyary, “When we were with the Congress, it never tried to crush us. But the BJP will use both money and muscle power for that.”

The UPPL’s Brahma dismisses such apprehensions as not “realistic”, saying the local party will always matter

Assam polls: GHADC polls postponed by Meghalaya Cabinet

The decision was taken at a cabinet meeting chaired by Meghalaya chief minister Conrad Sangma on March 4

Guwahati: Ahead of the upcoming assembly elections in Assam, the Meghalaya cabinet decided to postpone the polling date of the Garo Hills Autonomous District Council (GHADC) General Elections from April 9 to April 12, 2021.

The decision was taken at a cabinet meeting chaired by Meghalaya chief minister Conrad Sangma on March 4, 2021.

Informing about the changes, Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma took to Twitter saying, “Due to the 3rd phase of the #AssamAssemblyElections2021 on the 6th of April, 2021 in Lower Assam, Cabinet has decided to postpone the polling date of the GHADC General Elections from the 9th of April to the 12th of April 2021 to ensure smooth execution of the GHADC elections.”

It is to be noted that Assam assembly elections will be held in three phases beginning from March 27 with the final round of voting taking place on April 6.

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Priyanka Gandhi Vadra interacts with tea garden workers with a cup of tea

Guwahati: Congress Party General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on the second day of her Assam visit interacted with tea garden workers here in Biswanath.

She was spotted sharing the moment alongside tea garden workers with a cup of traditional Assamese tea.

Sharing their grievances, the tea garden workers sought her support and appealed to protect the tea tribes’ community and their land.

While interacting with the tea tribes community, Vadra raises serious concerns over their daily wage earnings, living standards, health facilities, education etc.

During her interaction, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said, “BJP government has been involved in making fake promises to the people of India. It has been five years now, but, did the BJP led-government kept their promises, or did they provided you the basic amenities after they came to power in Assam? It’s the duty for every single party to fulfill the promises they make during election campaigns and the same goes with the Congress party. The irony is that the ruling government is running only for few selected multinational enterprises, but there has been no development for the common people of the nation during any natural calamities or in the midst of lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

She urged the tea tribes community to vote for the right people in the upcoming assembly polls in Assam.

Earlier on Monday, Assam Congress in a press statement stated that on the second day of her Assam visit Priyanka Gandhi Vadra will be announcing 5 guarantees from the Party, which will occur as assured fulfillments once it comes to Power. The announcement will be based on the issues that came to light and were raised during the “Axom Basaon Ahok  Yatra” and through, the “Axom Basaon Ahok” video contest.

 

Also Read: Congress deadlock to continue: G-23 planning event in Haryana now