An estimated 77.21 per cent of the 73.45 lakh voters exercised their franchise on Thursday during the second phase of polling, in which at least three persons were injured in firing by PSOs of Deputy Speaker Aminul Haque Laskar in Sonai constituency. There are no other reports of violence from any of the 39 constituencies, where voting took place to decide the fate of 345 candidates, including five ministers, election officials said.
“The poll percentage estimated as of now is 77.21 per cent. It will increase a bit after final compilation," Joint Chief Electoral Officer Rahul Chandra Das said. Meanwhile, three persons were injured in firing by body guards of Laskar after clash broke out between supporters of BJP and AIUDF outside 463 Madhya Dhanehori LP School polling station at Sonai of Cachar district.
Dhanehari gaon panchayat president Lutfa Begum said the PSO of Laskar fired on the crowd which had confined the BJP leader in a room alleging rigging by him. Cachar Deputy Commissioner Keerthi Jalli confirmed the development and said they are waiting for a detailed report.
“They are all non-critical," she said when asked how many people were injured and their health status. When contacted the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer of Assam said they will be able to comment only after a detailed report is received from the Returning Officer.
Apart from Laskar, other prominent contestant in the fray are BJP Ministers Parimal Suklabaidya, Pijush Hazarika, Bhabesh Kalita, Rihon Daimary (BPF), Rajya Sabha MP Biswajit Daimary and former Congress minister and now BJP nominee Gautam Roy. Many polling stations reported malfunctioning and technical glitches of the Electronic Voting Machines and those were replaced immediately, an EC official said without sharing the number of machines replaced.
Voters wearing masks and maintaining social distance formed long queues since early morning in front of the 10,592 polling stations in the constituencies spread across 13 districts. Voting began at 7 am and continued till 6 pm with the extra hour given in view of the pandemic.
Long queues were seen outside polling booths since morning with voters and election officials adhering to COVID- 19 protocols in some booths, but most electorates did not follow any health guidelines and were seen huddling together in groups. The unmasked voters were provided with one at the polling stations, which had facilities like sanitisers, thermal scanners and soap as part of COVID-19 protocol.
Each voter was also given one piece of disposable plastic hand glove to wear on right hand before entering the booth. First voters in 117 model polling stations were greeted with saplings and ‘Gamocha’, a traditional hand-woven Assamese scarf.
Model Polling Stations in Cachar were made eco-friendly with all recyclable material only being used, an official said, adding these booths also showcased the cultural legacy of the district through display of handicrafts and handlooms. Thunderstorms accompanied with lightning, rain, hail stones and gusty winds with 30 to 40 kmph speed hit Karimganj district in the morning but the weather later cleared.
Rains and thunderstorms are common during this month before the Rongali Bihu festival which is a fortnight away. Among the prominent candidates who exercised their franchise in the first hour are sitting Karimganj (North) MLA Kamalakhya Dey Purakayastha of Congress and his BJP opponent Manash Das.
BJP’s Nalbari candidate Jayanta Malla Baruah, UPPL’s Gobinda Chandra Basumatary and former Asam Sahitya Sabha President and BJP candidate from Sipajhar Paramanda Rajbongshi are also in then fray in this phase. Out of the total 10,592 polling stations in 5,774 locations, there are 556 polling booths exclusively maintained by women, while webcasting will be done in 5,315 polling stations.
A total of 42,368 polling personnel have been deployed for the second phase. Elections to the 126-assembly constituencies in the state are being held in three phases with 79.97 per cent of the electorate exercising their franchise in 47 constituencies in the first phase on March 27.
The third and final phase elections will be held on April 6 for 40 seats. Results will come on May 2.
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