Assam first phase polls to decide fate of 539 candidates (Lead, Superseding earlier story)

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Guwahati, April 3 (IANS) Assam will hold the first phase of assembly polls on Monday for 65 constituencies that will decide the fate of 539 candidates. Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi is seeking a mandate for the fifth term from Titabar constituency, while the BJP’s chief ministerial candidate Sarbananda Sonowal is contesting from Majuli.

A total of 95,11,732 voters, including 45,95,712 females, are eligible to cast their ballot on Monday.

Assam’s Chief Electoral Officer Vijayendra said balloting will be held at 12,190 polling stations.

A total of 535 companies of security forces, including 433 companies of central armed police forces, have been deployed across all polling stations to ensure smooth balloting.

There are 3,739 sensitive polling stations, followed by 1,992 hyper sensitive polling stations and 1,241 critical polling stations.

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The BJP’s Lok Sabha member Kamakhya Prasad Tasha will fight against Gogoi in Titabar, while Majuli legislator Rajib Lochan Pegu of the Congress will contest against Sonowal.

“We are hopeful of a peaceful poll tomorrow (Monday). The last Lok Sabha election in 2014 in Assam recorded 80.21 percent polling. We hope there will be good turnout tomorrow,” Vijayendra said.

In the first phase, the ruling Congress will contest in all 65 constituencies, while the BJP has put up candidates in 54.

The All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), led by perfume baron Moulana Badruddin Ajmal, is contesting in 27 seats, while regional party Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) — which is in alliance with the BJP — is contesting in only 11 seats.

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There are 280 Independent candidates in the first phase, followed by 65 candidates from some lesser known or unregistered parties.

Additional Chief Electoral Officer Nitin Khade told IANS on Sunday: “We are hopeful of peaceful and incident-free polls tomorrow (Monday). The presiding officers and other poll officials, accompanied by security personnel, have started moving towards their respective polling centres.

“Security arrangements have been made as per necessity. In every polling station, there will be at least three armed police and two unarmed constables. More security personnel will be deployed in sensitive and critical polling stations as per the necessity,” he said.

In upper Assam and the north bank of the Brahmaputra river, most of the constituencies will see straight battles between the Congress and the BJP-AGP-Bodoland Peoples’ Front (BPF) alliance.

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However, the constituencies in the Barak Valley are likely to see a three-cornered fight between the Congress, the BJP-led alliance and the AIUDF.

Other prominent faces who are seeking mandate in the first phase include PWD minister Ajanta Neog, Agriculture Minister Rockybul Hussain, Cultural Minister Bismita Gogoi, and former union minister Paban Singh Ghatowar of the Congress.

Two-time chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, former education minister Brindaban Goswami and Atul Bora — all from the AGP — are also contesting.

Balloting for the second phase for 61 of the 126 constituencies will be held on April 11.

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