The fate of five ministers, the deputy speaker and a few significant opposition faces will be decided as 39 seats in Assam go to the polls in the second phase on Thursday. In all, 345 candidates, including 26 women, are in the fray in this phase, the polling for which will be held from 7 am to 6 pm amid heavy security and strict COVID-19 guidelines, officials said.
The ruling BJP is contesting 34 seats, while its allies Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and United People’s Party Liberal (UPPL) are fighting in six and three seats, respectively. There are “friendly contests" between the BJP and the AGP in Patharkandi and Algapur, while the BJP is engaged in similar fights with the UPPL in Majbat and Kalaigaon.
The Grand Alliance’s Congress is contesting in 28 seats, the AIUDF in seven and Bodoland Peoples’ Front (BPF) in four. The newly-formed Assam Jatiya Parishad (AJP) is contesting in 19 seats. There is a direct contest between the NDA and the Grand Alliance in 25 constituencies, while the rest are witnessing triangular fights.
BJP minister Parimal Suklabaidya is in a direct contest with Congress’s Kamakhya Prasad Mala in Dholai, while Deputy Speaker Aminul Haque Laskar of the BJP is in a straight contest with AIUDF’s Karim Uddin Barbhuiyan in Sonai. Minister Pijush Hazarika is locked in a triangular contest with Congress’s Swapan Kumar Mandal and AJP’s Bubul Das from Jagiroad (SC), and his cabinet colleague Bhabesh Kalita is in a direct fight with AJP’s Babul Saharia in the Rangiya constituency.
Rajya Sabha MP Biswajit Daimary is fighting against BPF’s Karuna Kanta Swargiary in Paneri, while AIUDF’s Sirajuddin Ajmal, a former MP and MLA, is fighting the elections against AGP’s Sadikullah Bhuyan from Jamunamukh. Former Congress minister Gautam Roy, contesting on a BJP ticket from Katigora, is in a direct fight with his ex- party colleague Khalliluddin Mazumdar. Gautam’s son Rahul Roy, contesting as an Independent, is in a triangular contest with former Congress minister Ajit Singh and sitting BJP MLA Mihir Kanti Shome from Udharbond.
Gautam Roy’s daughter-in-law Daisy Roy is also contesting as an Independent from Algapur where the AGP’s Aftabuddin Laskar and BJP’s Moon Swarnakar, in a ‘friendly contest’, will battle against sitting AIUDF MLA Nijamuddin Choudhury. In Silchar, sitting BJP MLA Dilip Paul, now expelled from the party, is contesting as an Independent and is locked in a contest with BJP’s Dipayan Chakraborty and Congress’s Tamal Kanti Banik.
Another BJP minister, Sum Ronghang, on being denied ticket joined the Congress and is locked in a direct fight against BJP’s Bidya Sing Engleng in Diphu. Total 175 candidates are fighting the phase two elections from 15 seats in the three districts of Karimganj, Hailakandi and Cachar. Algapur has the highest 19 candidates.
There are only two candidates in Udalguri (ST) constituency where BPF minister Rihon Daimary is engaged in a direct contest with UPPL’s Gobinda Chandra Basumatary, who is currently the deputy chief of the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC). The elections will be held amid tight security with 310 companies of forces being deployed for the second phase, an official said.
Round-the-clock patrolling is being carried out along with strict vigil in critical areas in all the constituencies spread over 13 districts in Barak Valley, the Hills districts and parts of Central and Lower Assam. A constable and a home guard will be deployed in each polling station with sector and zonal police officers to monitor the situation.
A total of 73,44,631 voters will be deciding the fate of 345 candidates. Of them, 37,34,537 are males and 36,09,959 females, while 135 are third gender voters. Total 10,592 polling stations have been set up in 5,774 premises.
There are 556 polling stations where only women officials will be deployed, while there are 117 model polling stations. The webcasting facility will be available at 5,315 polling stations.
Total 42,368 polling personnel have been deployed for the second phase. Of them, 1,516 left for their destinations on Tuesday itself to reach polling stations set up in remote locations, especially in the three hill districts of Dima Hasao, Karbi Anglong and West Karbi Anglong, official sources said. Sanitisers, thermal scanners, soaps and handwashing facilities will be available at all polling stations, they said.
Hojai constituency has the highest of 2,65,886 voters, while Howraghat (ST) constituency has the lowest of 1,32,339 voters. Postal ballots have been issued to 21,281 people over 80 years old, and 5,407 Persons with Disabilities (PwD). Total 17,164 voters have been issued those through the Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot System (ETPBS).
The second phase polling will also involve 26 general observers, 12 police observers, 16 expenditure observers and 807 micro-observers. Elections to the 126-member Assam assembly 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.