82.33 per cent voting recorded in final phase in Assam

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Guwahati, Apr 6 (PTI) An estimated 82.33 per cent of 79.2 lakh electors voted in the third and last phase of Assam Assembly election in 40 constituencies on Tuesday that largely remained peaceful except for sporadic incidents of violence and disturbances reported from some areas.

The percentage of polling, which took place from 7 am to 6 pm,may increase a bit with the arrival of more information, Joint Chief Electoral Officer Rahul Chandra Das said.

'As per the information available, the poll percentage has been estimated at 82.33 per cent,' he added.

Polling percentage in the third round is more than the previous two which saw 79.93 and 80.96 per cent voting respectively.

The South Salmara district witnessed highest polling at 89.49 per cent, followed by Dhubri with 89.20 per cent and Bilasipara (87.07 per cent), official data showed.

Lower polling took place at Kamrup Metropolitan, which comprises the Guwahati city, at 74.42 per cent, followed by Bajali with 77.51 per cent and Baksa (78.22 per cent).

Altogether 337 candidates, including 25 women, are contesting in 40 constituencies in the third phase.

Their fate was sealed by 79,19,641 electors, including 40,11,539 males, 39,07,963 females and 139 transgenders, in 11,401 polling stations.

In the three-phased Assam Assembly polls for 126 constituencies, the state witnessed 79.93 per cent polling on 47 seats during the first phase on March 27 and 80.96 per cent on 39 seats during the second phase on April 1.

During the day, a clash between two groups of public broke out 'over some issues', forcing the police to resort to mild lathicharge and firing in the air with no one injured, an official said.

The incident took place at the polling station set up at Dighaltari LP School under Golakganj constituency and the situation is under control with voting continuing normally after a brief halt, the official said.

At the Gutipara booth under the Bilasipara West seat, a group of people attacked security personnel over distribution of free masks and pelted stones at the polling station, leading to lathicharge by the police to control the situation.

Voting was interrupted there for about half-an-hour after which it continued as usual, officials said.

At a polling booth under Bongaigaon constituency, police resorted to lathicharge when a huge crowd had arrived.

Another polling station under the same constituency witnessed 'some commotion' when the presiding officer went to help a differently abled person in casting his vote.

However, the situation was brought under control immediately after police intervened, an election official said.

Police detained at least two persons from the polling booth at Kamrup Academy Higher Secondary School in Guwahati for allegedly distributing BJP pamphlets carrying minister Siddhartha Bhattacharya's pictures inside the centre.

A total of around 10 persons have been detained from different parts of the constituencies witnessing voting on Tuesday, officials said.

EVM malfunctioning was reported from several polling centres but after the machines were replaced, voting resumed there, an Election official said without sharing the number of units replaced.

A direct contest between nominees of the BJP-led NDA and Congress-headed Grand Alliance is on the cards in 20 constituencies, while there is a triangular fight, including friendly contests, in the remaining seats with the Assam Jatiya Parishad (AJP) being considered as the third force.

The newly-floated AJP is contesting on 22 seats, while there are 126 independents in the fray in the final phase of polls,in which BJP-led alliance is fighting on 37 seats.

The Grand Alliance has put up 45 candidates, including friendly contests between Congress and AIUDF on five seats.

The fate of 20 sitting MLAs -- eight from the Congress, five from the BJP, three each from the AIUDF and the BPF, and one from the AGP -- will be decided in this round.

BJP ministers Himanta Biswa Sarma,Chandra Mohan Patowary, Siddhartha Bhattacharya and Phani Bhusan Choudhury were in the fray in this phase.

The electoral future of BPF ministers Chandan Brahma and Pramila Rani Brahma along with BJP state chief Ranjeet Kumar Dass were also sealed Tuesday.

Voters wearing masks were seen queuing up outside polling booths with some maintaining distance by standing in marked circles across the 12 districts in lower Assam.

However,most of the voters in rural areas were not observing any COVID-19 protocol and were seen huddling in groups.

The voters who did not have masks were provided with one, besides a disposable plastic gloves before they were allowed to enter the polling booths.

The first voters at the polling centres were greeted with saplings and the senior citizens with 'gamochas' (traditional Assamese scarf).

For the convenience of the senior citizens and physically challenged voters, arrangements for wheelchairs and e- rickshaws were made at many of the booths.

The model polling stations have a children's play zone, seating lounge, selfie zone and muppets. Many of the booths also had seating areas, in rainbow shades, themed on inclusivity and LGBTQ rights.

Many polling centres were decorated with recyclable items, having art installations made with bottles and plastic wrappers among others.

Ethnic fabric and handicraft items were on display in many polling centres, besides mannequins wearing tribal attires put up at the selfie zones.

Assamese festival of Bihu, which is just 10 days away, was also a popular theme in several polling booths. PTI TR ESB DG SNS SNS