Spotlight on Assam's tea garden districts as first phase of campaigning ends; Opposition bets on CAA, BJP offers NRC correction
A total of 47 seats will go to polls on 27 March, which will decide the fate of 264 candidates, including Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, Congress' Debabrata Saikia and Ripun Bora, jailed anti-CAA activist Akhil Gogoi and Assam Jatiya Parishad president Lurinjyoti Gogoi
The high-pitched campaign for the first phase of the Assam election ended on Thursday with polling set to take place on Saturday (27 March). A total of 47 Assembly constituencies will go to the polls in the first phase of the Assam Assembly election.
The hectic campaigning for the first phase was marked by meetings by several national leaders of the ruling BJP and the opposition Congress, who crisscrossed the state to garner support for their respective parties.
The poll on Saturday will decide the fate of 264 candidates, including incumbent chief minister and BJP leader Sarbananda Sonowal, who is contesting from Majuli, jailed anti-CAA activist Akhil Gogoi from Sibsagar and Congress leaders Ripun Bora and Debabrata Saikia, among others. Also, in the fray is Assam Jatiya Parishad president Lurinjyoti Gogoi from Duliajan and Naharkatia.
The tea gardens of Assam have been in the spotlight in the first phase of the campaign as of the 47 constituencies going to polls on Saturday, 38 fall in the tea districts of Jorhat, Golaghat, Sibsagar, Dibrugarh, Tinsukia, Bishwanath and Sonitpur.
The BJP which is hoping to retain power in the state, brought several high-profile leaders such as Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and party president JP Nadda to campaign in the state while the Congress campaign was led by Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.
Other prominent BJP leaders who campaigned in the state include Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Tomar, who is also party's state in-charge, besides Textile and Handloom Minister Smriti Irani and chief ministers Yogi Adityanath and Shivraj Singh Chouhan.
Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and BJP state unit President Ranjeet Kumar Dass and North East Democratic Alliance convenor and state minister Himanta Biswa Sarma campaigned in the constituencies which are spread across upper and central Assam
Other Congress leaders who participated in the poll campaign included former Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan, AICC general
secretary Randeep Singh Surjewala, Gaurav Gogoi, the chairman of the manifesto committee and Chhatisgarh Chief Minister
Bhupesh Baghel, who is in charge of the party's campaign in Assam.
Key poll alliances
The Congress has formed a Mahajoth or Grand Alliance with the AIUDF, CPI, CPM, CPI(ML), Anchalik Gana Morcha (AGM), Rashtriya Janata Dal, and the Jimochayan (Deori) Peoples Party (JPP) for the election. The Bodoland People's Front (BPF), which had contested the 2016 state election as a regional partner of the BJP, severed ties with the saffron party and has joined the Congress-led alliance.
The BJP is contesting this election in alliance with the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and United People's Party Liberal who are part of the North East Democratic Alliance, the regional arm of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
Key poll issues and promises
Implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019, was the central issue in the state, which was rocked by violence and protests against it, but the BJP, which had steered the central legislation in the Parliament maintained a studied silence on it. The issue did not find a place in the campaigning by the party nor in its manifesto. However, party president JP Nadda's comment that itis an act of Parliament and will be implemented saw protests across the state by political parties students union AASU.
The BJP in its campaign spoke against the alliance between Congress and Badraduddin Ajmals' AIUDF, saying it would lead to an increase in infiltration. The increased infiltration will lead to threats to the land, language, identity and culture of the state's indigenous population, it insisted.
At poll rallies, Shah claimed the BJP government in Assam had made the state free from agitations and terrorism (andolan and aatankwad). He promised to solve the problem of recurring floods in the state and also make infiltration "a thing of the past" if the BJP is voted to power again. The BJP leader also targetted the Congress's alliance with the AIUDF, saying that Assam cannot be safe in Badruddin Ajmal's hands.
Modi too trained his guns on the Opposition alliance, terming the 'Mahajoth' (grand alliance) as a 'Mahajhoot' (grand lie). The prime minister alleged that the Congress neither had able leadership nor any ideals and can go to any extent to win the election.
In its manifesto, the ruling party made "ten commitments" for an 'Atmanirbhar Assam', including the process for the correction of the NRC to "protect genuine Indian citizens and exclude all illegal immigrants"; protecting the political rights of the people of the state through a delimitation exercise and "Mission Brahmaputra" to make the state free from the vagaries of floods.
After releasing the manifesto, Nadda said the Citizenship Amendment Act (which is not mentioned in the manifesto) has been passed by the Parliament and will be implemented "in time". He also said the Congress claim that they will not allow the CAA's implementation in the state, if voted to power, maybe either "due to their ignorance or they are trying to fool the people of the state".
The highlight of the Opposition Congress campaign was the visit of its top leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra in the tea belt.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had asserted that if the party was voted to power, the CAA will not be implemented in the state, which had seen widespread protests against the legislation from December 2019.
Congress has included the promise to bring a law to nullify the CAA in its manifesto. It has also promised five lakh government jobs, a monthly income of Rs 2,000 to housewives and 200 units of free electricity.
BJP's alliance partner AGP in its manifesto termed the foreigners' issue as the main problem of the state and promised full implementation of the Assam Accord and its Clause 6 while remaining silent on the CAA issue.
The newly floated political parties — Assam Jatiya Parishad and Raijor Dal relied mostly on door-to-door campaigns and street corner meetings.
Both the national parties as well as two regional parties — AGP and Assam Jatiya Parishad — have also been trying to reach out to tea garden workers. According to news agency PTI, out of the 47 constituencies, going to polls in the first phase, 38 fall in the tea districts of Jorhat, Golaghat, Sibsagar, Dibrugarh, Tinsukia, Bishwanath and Sonitpur.
State minister Sum Ronghang, one of the 11 sitting BJP MLAs who were denied poll tickets, had switched to Congress.
List of seats going to polls in the first phase
|Constituency number||Constituency Name|
Candidates for the first phase
According to the office of the Chief Electoral Officer, 264 candidates are in the fray in the first phase. There are 81,09,815 general electors in the first phase. Of these, 40,77,210 are men, 40,32,481 are women and 124 are transgender.
The BJP is contesting in 39 of the 47 seats while its alliance partner AGP had fielded candidates in 10 seats, including two where it is in a friendly contest against the saffron party.
The Congress is contesting in 43 seats and its allies AIUDF, RJD, Anchalik Gana Morcha (as Independent) and CPI-ML in one seat each.
The Assam Jatiya Parishad is contesting in 41 seats while the Raijor Dal is contesting in 19 seats as Independents. A total of 78 independents are in the fray in the first phase.
Prominent among those whose fates will be decided in the first phase are incumbent Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal (Majuli), Speaker Hitendra Nath Goswami, ministers Atul Bora, Keshab Mahanta, Ranjit Dutta, Naba Kumar Doley, Sanjoy Kishan and Nazir Hussain.
The others are Assam Pradesh Congress Committee president Ripun Bora, Congress Legislature Party leader Debabrata Saikia, AICC secretary Bhupen Borah and former ministers of the party Bharat Narah, Pranatee Phukan and Rakibul Hussain.
The fates of jailed Raijor Dal president Akhil Gogoi (Sivasagar) and Assam Jatiya Parishad president Lurinjyoti Gogoi (Duliajan and Naharkatia) along with his party general secretary Jagadish Bhuyan will also be decided in the first phase.
With inputs from PTI
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