Assam third phase polling largely peaceful

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Guwahati, Apr 6 (PTI) The third and last phase of the state election in Assam which is underway amidst tight security in 40 constituencies spread across 12 districts on Tuesday is largely peaceful despite sporadic incidents of violence and disturbances in some areas, officials said.

There were reports of a clash between two groups of people over some issues at a polling station at Dighaltari lower primary school at Golakganj. Police resorted to lathicharge and firing in the air to control the situation but none was injured, an official said.

The polling at the booth was stopped for a brief period and resumed soon, he said.

At a booth at Guptipara in Bilasipara West constituency security personnel were attacked by a group of people over distribution of free masks. Here too the police resorted to lathicharge when the attackers threw stones at the polling station.

As a result voting at the polling station was interrupted for about half-an-hour but later resumed normally, officials said.

In a polling booth in Bongaigaon, there was lathi charge by the police when a huge crowd arrived, an official of the force said.

Another polling station in the same constituency witnessed commotion when the presiding officer went to help a differently abled person to cast his vote. The situation was brought under control immediately by the police, an election official said.

In another incident police detained at least two persons from a polling booth at Kamrup Academy Higher Secondary School in Guwahati for allegedly distributing inside it BJP pamphlets carrying minister Siddhartha Bhattacharya's pictures.

Around 10 people have been detained from different constituencies where voting is on, officials said.

EVM malfunctioning was reported in several polling centers and voting in them resumed after the machines were replaced, they said.

Voters wearing masks were seen queuing outside the polling booths. In some places they maintained the stipulated physical distance by standing in marked circles. Voters of all the four constituencies in Guwahati city were seen abiding by the coronavirus precautions.

However, most of the voters in rural areas were seen huddling in groups. Those who did not have masks were provided with them, besides disposable plastic gloves before the voters were allowed to enter the polling booths.

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

BJP ministers Himanta Biswa Sarma, Chandra Mohan Patowary, Siddhartha Bhattacharya and Phani Bhusan Choudhury, who are in the fray in this phase, exercised their franchise in the morning hours.

BPF ministers Chandan Brahma and Pramila Rani Brahma also cast their votes as did BPL chief Hagrama Mohilary,, BJP state chief Ranjeet Kumar Dass, Congress leader Ratul Patowary and state election ambassador and actor Kopil Bora.

Arrangement for wheelchairs and e-rickshaws have been made at many booths for the convenience of senior citizens and physically challenged voters.

In a celebration of the festival of democracy many model polling stations have been decorated with recyclable items, art installations made with bottles and plastic wrappers.

Many others have children's play zone, seating lounge and selfie zones. Many of them also have seating areas in rainbow shades, themed on inclusivity and LGBTQ rights.

Some of the voting centers are decorated to represent the cultural diversity of the state. Ethnic fabric and handicraft items are on display and mannequins draped in tribal attires are placed in the selfie zones.

The Assamese festival of Bihu, which is just 10 days away, is a popular theme in several polling booths. Arched gates and seating areas with colourful chairs are imparting the polling centers a festive look.

At a polling station at Goalpara, women polling personnel wore identical mekhela and chador -- an Assamese traditional attire.

The polling, which began at 7 am, will continue till 6 pm. PTI TR ESB DG KK KK KK