No major incidents of violence were reported as Assam voted in the first phase for the Assembly elections on Saturday. As of 5 pm, 72.10% of voters came out to vote as per the Election Commission of India. As many as 47 constituencies are voting in the first phase today. The next two phases are scheduled for April 1 and April 6.
“As a whole, the election has been peaceful,” said Rahul Das, Nodal Officer appointed by the Chief Electoral Officer, Assam. “We are waiting for the final figure,” he said.
According to the Election Commission of India, 264 candidates are in the fray, including incumbent Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal (Majuli), newly formed Assam Jatiya Parishad and Raijor Dal presidents Lurinjyoti Gogoi (Duliajan and Naharkatia) and Akhil Gogoi (Sivasagar), and Asom Gana Parishad Chief Atul Bora (Bokakhat).
According to party insiders, the first phase is make or break for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-led alliance. The party is hoping to get a lion’s share from these 47 seats to come back to power.
The BJP-AGP alliance won 35 seats out of these 47 in 2016. They aim to either repeat or better this performance to upset the calculations of the Congress-led grand alliance. The BJP is contesting on 39 seats, while the AGP has fielded candidates on 10 seats. Two seats, including Naharkatia, have candidates from both the AGP and the BJP.
Congress has fielded candidates on 43 seats, while the Assam Jatiya Parishad has its candidates on 41 seats.
Senior BJP leader, strategist and cabinet minister Himanta Biswa Sarma told the media that the party would win 42 out of 47 seats. Another party leader told EastMojo that they are hopeful of getting 38 out of 47 seats even as there are concerns over the alliance performance in seats being contested by the AGP.
To neutralise the anger against the Citizenship Amendment Bill which led to widespread protests and violence including in Upper Assam, the party formulated a multi-pronged strategy.
It sought to reach out to indigenous communities on the issue of security alleging Badruddin Ajmal, who is seen as a representative of the Bengali speaking Muslims as a threat to Assamese identity.
The party leaders have also pinned their hopes on the sops and schemes that have been rolled out by the state and the Centre. There are as many as 1.9 crore beneficiaries of centre and state schemes spread across the state, and BJP leaders claim that the workers have reached out to them.
The government has also given out land pattas to indigenous people. A significant number of these pattas were given in the Upper Assam districts.
The first phase seats fall in the core tea belt of Assam where the tea garden workers community exercise a sizeable influence.
The BJP has made significant inroads among the community since 2014. It has continued its outreach to the community with sops and promises of better wages even though tea garden workers complain that the party has not delivered on its promise of Rs 351 daily wage.
Congress, meanwhile, is banking on its anti-CAA plank to get votes. Its leaders were seeing sporting anti-CAA gamusas and going on signature campaigns against the new laws as they embarked on ‘save Assam’ road trips. The Congress manifesto promises five guarantees including five lakh government jobs and free electricity
They have also reached out to tea garden workers, promising them a daily wage of Rs 365 with senior leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi meeting these workers during their campaign trips.
“We are in a fight in all constituencies,” said Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Singh Baghel who is camping in Upper Assam. He said CAA remains to be a big issue and the Congress would do well in Upper Assam.
The two new parties, the Assam Jatiya Parishad and the Raijor Dal who were born out of the anti-CAA movement could upset the calculations of both the BJP-led alliance and the Congress-led Mahajut.