Stage set for final round of voting in Assam (Poll curtainraiser – Assam)

Guwahati, April 22 (Inditop) The stage is all set for the second and final phase of voting in Assam Thursday with 11 of the 14 parliamentary constituencies going to the polls amid heavy security arrangements, officials said here Tuesday.

“Polling personnel along with materials have already reached their respective polling centres and we are hopeful of a free and fair election,” an Election Commission official said.

Elections are to be held to the parliamentary seats of Dibrugarh, Jorhat, Kaliabor, Nagaon, Tezpur, Lakhimpur, Guwahati, Mangaldoi, Barpeta, Dhubri and Kokrajhar.

Earlier, elections in the first phase were held for the three parliamentary seats of Silchar, Karimganj and Autonomous District in Assam April 16 with heavy polling recorded.

An estimated 14.73 million voters are eligible to exercise their franchise in the second phase in which 121 candidates are in the fray.

The ruling Congress party is locked in a direct fight with the opposition combine of the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), while for at least two seats it would be a triangular contest with the Asom United Democratic Front (AUDF) also emerging as a political force to be reckoned with.

Electioneering this time in Assam was marked by bitter exchanges between the rival parties – the Congress taking on the AGP-BJP and the AUDF, while the opposition mincing no words in lambasting the ruling party.

The main thorn for the Congress is the AUDF that has the potential to become a major spoiler by dividing the minority Muslim votes – a charge that the Congress has all along been trading.

“It is true that AUDF is a factor in the elections and would surely cut into the minority votes, thereby indirectly helping the AGP-BJP combine to fare well in the polls,” said Abdul Mannan, an analyst and teacher at Gauhati University.

The AUDF, a party that claims to espouse the cause of the minorities, has put up candidates for nine seats.

“The AGP and the BJP have a secret pact with Badruddin Ajmal (leader of the AUDF) to defeat the Congress… AUDF has fallen into a communal trap with Ajmal playing into the hands of L.K. Advani who is known to have spearheaded the demolition of the Babri Masjid,” Assam Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma told an election meeting in the minority-dominated Dhing area in central Assam.

A massive security alert was sounded and an estimated 50,000 policemen and paramilitary troopers were deployed across the state for the polls.

“Security measures have been tightened and deployment made according to the Election Commission guidelines,” Assam police chief G.M. Srivastava said.

“We hope the elections would pass off peacefully,” Srivastava said.