Sibsagar/Dibrugarh: The overground cadres of ULFA will not exercise their franchise in the Assam Assembly polls but will not hamper the process, the outfit's vice-chairman Pradip Gogoi said on Monday. Gogoi told PTI that the outfit had already announced that it would boycott the polls and maintain a neutral stand.
"The question of voting in the polls does not arise but we will not hamper the process. Let the people fulfil their responsibilities", he said. ULFA spokesman Jiten Dutta said in Kakopathar that the outfit with 145 overground cadres in 3 designated camps at Kakopathar, Moran and Nalbari would continue to boycott
elections till the conflict situation in the state is resolved.
"We will, however, not disturb the poll process and hope people will elect members who will help in resolving the conflict for lasting peace in Assam," he said. The cadres are preparing for ULFA's raising day on April 7 and will attend the central function at Kakopathar to be attended by outfit chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa, he said.
Gogoi said the ULFA leadership was not in favour of keeping the cadres in designated camps but wanted them to live amongst their own family members. The EC had notified that the ex-militants in designated camps in Assam with their names in the electoral rolls are entitled to vote by postal ballot.
70 per cent polling recorded
Voting for the first phase of assembly elections in Assam ended on Monday with an estimated 70 percent polling recorded, officials said. An election official said the voting percentage could go up as reports from interior places were still pouring in. Voting ended at 3 pm in the 13 Assam districts where polling was held in 62 of the 126 assembly seats.
Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi accompanied by wife Dolly and son Gaurav, Union DONER minister BK Handique and Lok Sabha MP Dip Gogoi cast their votes in Jorhat constituency. Reports of EVMs malfunctioning were reported from six polling stations in Lakhimpur, Naoboicha, Bokajan and Diphu Assembly constituencies.
"I am confident the Congress will make a hat-trick with people having full confidence in us. We shall get majority and form the next government," the chief minister told IANS after casting his vote in his home district of Jorhat in eastern Assam. Gogoi is contesting from the Titabar assembly seat in Jorhat district.
Polling was held amidst tight security following threats issued by banned ULFA faction led by Paresh Barua. Nearly 35,000 central paramilitary personnel have been deployed for the polls. Voters also boycotted polling in ten polling stations under the Haflong police station. The Indigenous Peoples Forum, an umbrella organisation of Hmar, Kuki and Zeme Naga tribes, boycotted the polls demanding bifurcation of North Cachar Hills district into two autonomous hills districts.
For the first time in 15 years, insurgents of the ethnic KLNLF participated in the democratic process by casting their vote in central Assam's Karbi Anglong district. Karbi Longri National Liberation Front chairman P Dili told reporters at a polling booth here that 41 of his cadres in two designated camps exercised their franchise for the first time in 15 years in the Assam Assembly elections.
Among other prominent persons contesting the elections were senior ministers Pradyut Bordoloi, Ajanta Neog, Prithivi Majhi, Gautam Roy and Bharat Chandra Narah. BJP state president Ranjit Dutta, former AGP president Brindaban Goswami and CPI National Council member Promode Gogoi were also in the fray. There were a total of 485 candidate in 62 of the 126 Assembly constituencies going to polls in the first phase.
An election official said voting has been going on peacefully in all the 13 districts with heavy to moderate polling recorded in the morning hours. Voting ends at 3 p.m. in about 11,000 polling stations. People in large numbers were queuing up in most polling booths with women and young voters attired in traditional costumes.
An estimated 8.5 million voters decided the fate of 485 candidates in the fray for the first phase vote; of these 38 are women nominees. The Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have fielded 62 candidates each for the first phase, while the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) has put up 51 nominees. There are 157 independent candidates in the fray for the first phase.
A total of 9.6 million voters in the second phase vote on April 11 in 64 seats would decide the fate of 496 candidates. The multi-phased elections in Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry end May 10 in West Bengal. This is the first major electoral exercise since the 2009 general elections. Results are due on May 13.