Unlike previous elections, this time the Assembly polls in Assam are being conducted with a different milieu by displaying the state’s cultural legacy and value-added products of the local artists and artisans, besides setting up eco-friendly polling stations that have become a new attraction for the voters.
The first two phases of polling in 25 of Assam’s 34 districts on March 27 and Thursday were held peacefully, without reports of any untoward incident.
Thanks to the Election Commission, in the first two rounds of the three-phase Assembly elections in Assam, over 220 polling stations in 86 Assembly constituencies have been categorised as model polling stations.
These model polling stations were decorated with colourful balloons, flowers, bamboo crafts, Assam’s traditional ‘gamocha’, local vegetation and various other local items.
The traditional ‘gamocha’ is a white piece of cloth with a red border having a customary pattern, which is almost synonymous to Assamese identity and culture.
“In the model polling stations, our officials have provided saplings, ‘gamocha’ and various other items for encouraging the voters to turn up in large numbers,” an election official told IANS.
According to the Chief Electoral Officer of Assam, Nitin Khade, of the total 33,530 polling stations (for all three phases of polling across Assam), as many as 1,351 booths are being managed by only women polling staff.
Khade said that the Election Commission has also been asking the political parties to use only environment-friendly material for campaign purposes since long.
The poll panel has instructed that all the political parties should take adequate steps and measures to not use single-use plastic as campaign materials (posters, banners etc.) during the elections in the interest of human health and environment.
“Adequate and suitable arrangements have also been made for the 1,38,290 eligible PwD (people with disabilities) voters,” the CEO said, adding that Assam has 289,474 voters aged 80 years and above.
The state has the total of 2,33,74,087 voters, including 1,15,50,403 women.
The election officials said that e-rickshaw facilities were also given to the voters aged 60 years and above, especially to those who have difficulty in moving. They are also being felicitated for their will to cast their votes.
Election officials said that to avoid crowding, the number of voters for every booth has been brought down to a maximum of 1,000. As a result, the number of polling booths has been augmented by 34.71 per cent to 33,530 from 24,890 in 2016.
To avoid direct contact with the Electronic Voting Machines, every voter is being given hand gloves.
“For the first time in the past 50 years I have never seen such a decorated and beautiful polling station with all the necessary facilities,” said Basana Chakraborty, 79, after casting her vote at a model polling station in Silchar.
In another first in Assam, the Election Commission has also arranged for voting through postal ballots for persons with disabilities, Covid-19 infected people and those above the age of 80 years, which were held two weeks before the polling began.
The Election Commission had earlier said that all the voters in certain categories would have to apply within five days of notification of elections in their respective Assembly constituencies, if they wished to use the option of postal ballot for voting.
Election officials said that a polling team comprising two officials along with a videographer and security staff went to the elector’s house along with a voting compartment to get the elector to vote using postal ballot by maintaining complete secrecy.
The second phase of polling in 39 constituencies were held in 13 districts on Thursday without reports of any untoward incident, with 77 per cent voter turnout.
Of the three-phase elections to the 126-member Assam Assembly, the third and final phase of polling will be held in 40 seats on April 6. The results will be declared on May 2.
Nearly 80 per cent of 81,09,815 voters had cast their votes in the first phase of polling on March 27.
(Sujit Chakraborty can be contacted at email@example.com)