Guwahati: The first phase of elections in Assam begins on Monday for 62 of the 126 assembly constituencies spread over 13 districts of Upper Assam.
Faced with accusations of corruption, it's a tough election for the ruling Congress. The Trinamool and AUDF are hoping to eat into its Muslim votebank.
Meanwhile, the opposition Asom Gana Parishad is not with its former ally the BJP this time, but both parties haven't ruled out a possible post poll alliance.
High security was in place as elections come two weeks after an IED blast by the ULFA on a Congress office in Guwahati left three people injured. Over 350 companies of paramilitary forces have been deployed.
Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi is among the key candidates contesting in the first phase from Titabor constituency in Jorhat district. He will be looking for a third straight win for the Congress.
Other key candidates include Power Minister Pradyuta Bordoloi of the Congress, who is contesting from Margherita. He is extremely popular, and it is perceived that he has done a lot of work in his constituency.
PWD Minister Ajanta Neog also of the Congress is contesting from Golaghat. The constituency comprises mainly tea gardens and workers there have traditionally backed the Congress. But this time round there is said to be resentment against the Congress in this vote bank.
Assam Assembly Speaker Tanka Bahadur Rai is contesting on a Congress ticket from Barchalla.
Former AGP President Brindaban Goswami is contesting from Tezpur, a traditional Congress bastion.
BJP's state president, Ranjit Dutta is contesting from Bihali.
Among the key issues, the tea tribes could be the most important factor, have traditionally favoured Congress. The Chief Minister's brother called them 'foreigners', leading to resentment against the Congress. Demands of SC/ST status and better working conditions have reportedly ignored by the party.
The ULFA factor is also an important issue as it is being seen in the context of the surrender of chief Arabinda Rajkhowa in 2009. Upper Assam still has some ULFA support especially in Tinsukhia. The Congress is counting on peace talks with ULFA, but Paresh Baruah's defiance could play spoiler.
Most parties have focussed on the infiltration of Bangladeshi migrants is a favourite flogging horse of all political parties. The Opposition has blamed Congress for playing to this vote bank of illegal Bangladeshi migrants. This is a big political issue for the BJP this time as well.
Big dams are another core concern and there is a sense of betrayal among those who will be directly affected by these projects. People fear risk of floods and large scale erosion. RTI activist Akhil Gogoi has got a lot of popular support in his campaign against big dams
Corruption allegations against the Congress in both Centre and the state may also play a spoilsport for the party as voters cast their ballots.