(Eds: With fresh inputs) Guwahati, Mar 27 (PTI) The first phase of polling in Assam was held peacefully in Assam on Saturday when around 77 per cent of the total 81.09 lakh voters exercised their franchise in 47 constituencies adhering to COVID-19 protocols, an Election Commission official said.
The fate of 264 candidates including Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, Speaker Hitendra Nath Goswami, state Congress president Ripun Bora and jailed anti-CAA activist Akhil Gogoi was sealed in the first of the three-phase election for the 126-member assembly in the state.
An estimated 76.89 per cent voter turnout was recorded till 6 pm when the voting ended, the official said.
'The poll percentage may increase a bit after final compilation,' Joint Chief Electoral Officer Rahul Ch Das said.
He said that polling passed off peacefully across the state and there was no report of any untoward incident.
However, the Polling Officer of Sonari Salkathani booth, Tulsi Khanikar, died while on duty.
'He fell sick and died on the way to Dibrugarh for treatment. He died on the way,' an official of Dibrugarh district said.
The Covid protocol officer of Lahowal constituency in Dibrugarh district, Munin Pathak, was picked up by the police when he threatened some voters with a pistol during an altercation over following the protocols, the official added.
Chief Minister Sonowal exercised his franchise at around 11 am at Sahitya Sabha Bhavan, a model polling station, in his home town of Dibrugarh in upper Assam.
'The BJP and its alliance partners will win again and return to power in Assam. People have seen the performance of our government in the last five years,' he said after casting his vote.
State Congress chief Ripun Bora cast his vote at Gohpur, from where he contested, and claimed that there is an anti-incumbency wave against the ruling BJP.
'The BJP's misrule, corruption, syndicate, price rise -- we have taken these issues to the people and they will vote accordingly. The Congress will emerge as the winner in this election and will form the government,' he said.
Speaker Hitendra Nath Goswami is in the fray to retain his Jorhat seat on basis of 'huge developmental works' done by him, while Raijor Dal chief Akhil Gogoi is trying his luck for the first time from the Sivasagar constituency.
Fates of a host of ministers such as Ranjit Dutta (Behali), Naba Kumar Doley (Dhakuakha), Jogen Mohan (Mahmora), Sanjoy Kishan (Tinsukia), Atul Bora (Bokakhat) and Keshab Mahanta (Kaliabor) were also sealed in this phase.
Congress Legislature Party leader Debabrata Saikia (Nazira) and Assam Jatiya Parishad (AJP) president Lurinjyoti Gogoi (Duliajan and Naharkatiya) were also in the fray in this phase.
Voting began at 7 am in the 47 seats in the Northeastern state and most of them witnessed a triangular contest among the ruling BJP-AGP alliance, the Congress-led Grand Alliance and the newly formed regional grouping Asom Jatiya Parishad-Raijor Dal.
A number of polling stations reported malfunctioning and technical glitches of the Electronic Voting Machines and those were replaced immediately, the EC official said without sharing the number of EVMs replaced.
Long queues were seen outside polling booths since morning with voters and election officials adhering to COVID- 19 protocols in some booths. However, the majority of the electorate did not follow the guidelines and were seen huddling in groups.
Voters who came without masks were provided with one at the polling stations that had facilities like sanitiser, thermal scanners and soap as part of COVID-19 protocol.
Each voter was also given a disposable plastic glove to wear on their right hand for touching the EVM.
First-time voters in many polling stations were greeted with saplings and 'Gamosa', a traditional hand-woven Assamese scarf.
Voting took place across 13,454 polling stations.
Women officials exclusively conducted the exercise in 479 polling stations.
Webcasting facility was also arranged in 5,772 booths identified as vulnerable, critical and sensitive polling stations along with those with a large number of voters.
A total of 300 companies of security forces were deployed in the first phase across 12 districts of upper Assam and the northern bank of Brahmaputra. PTI TR ESB DG NN NN