Guwahati, Mar 26 (PTI) Assam is all set to witness mostly direct or triangular contests between the ruling BJP, its alliance partner the Asom Gana Parishad, opposition Congress and the newly formed Asssam Jatiya Parishad in the first of a three phased assembly elections.
In the fray for the 47 constituencies going to polls on Saturday, are some 264 candidates, including 23 women, amid strict security and COVID protocols.
The stage is all set for the polls, beginning at 7 a.m and ending at 6 p.m, with the timing extended by an hour to ensure that COVID protocols are maintained. Central security forces have been deployed for the first phase to prevent any untoward law and order situations.
A senior police official, without divulging the exact figures of forces deployed, said that there are adequate forces to cover all polling stations.
Strict patrolling is being carried out along with a vigil in critical areas in all the constituencies, he added.
Poll and security personnel have started leaving for the polling stations, spread across 12 districts of Upper Assam and the Northern Bank of the Brahmaputra since early morning, officials said.
An electorate of 81,09,815, including 40,77,210 male, 40,32,481 female, 124 of the third gender and nine overseas voters, will exercise their franchise in 11,537 polling stations, which include 1,917 Auxiliary polling stations, created to maintain COVID protocols and spread over 6,433 locations.
There are 479 polling stations manned by women officials exclusively. Special measures have been taken for People with Disabilities (PwD) including wheel chairs in every polling station and E-rickshaws for facilitating such voters.
In the first phase, webcasting will be arranged in 5,772 polling stations, identified as vulnerable, critical and sensitive polling stations, along with those having large number of voters.In the first phase, Jonai (ST) constituency has the highest number of 3,11,660 voters while Thowra has the lowest number of voters at 1,15,364.
All voters have been urged to wear masks or they will provided with one at the polling station, while COVID mitigation facilities like sanitisers, thermal scanners, soap and hand washing facilities will be a part of Assured Minimum Facilities in each polling stations across the state, Assam's Chief Electoral Officer Nitin Khade said.
A distance of six feet between each voter while waiting to cast their vote must be maintained while each voter will be provided with plastic gloves for touching the EVMs, he said.
Arrangements have also been made for the disposal of COVID waste.
The ruling BJP is contesting in 39 seats while its alliance partner the AGP in ten seats, with the two parties engaged in a friendly contest in Lakhimpur and Naharkatiya constituencies.
The opposition 'Grand Alliance' is contesting in all the seats, with the Congress putting up candidates in 43 constituencies and the AIUDF, CPI(ML-L), RJD and Anchalik Gana Morcha (contesting as independent) in one seat each.
The newly formed AJP is contesting in 41 seats while there are 78 independents which include 19 independents of the other new party- Raijor Dal.
Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal's fate will be decided in this phase from Majuli (ST) constituency where he is locked in a direct contest with three-time former Congress MLA and former minister Rajib Lochan Pegu.
Speaker of the outgoing assembly Hitendranath Goswami is also locked in a direct contest with former Congress MLA Rana Goswami.
Another prominent constituency is Titabor, held by former Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi for four consecutive terms, but with his death, it remains to be seen whether the relatively little known candidate Bhaskar Jyoti Baruah can retain the seat for the party or the former AGP MLA Hemanta Kalita will wrest it in a direct contest.
BJP Ministers Ranjit Dutta (Behali), Naba Kumar Doley (Dhakuakha), Jogen Mohan (Mahmora), Terash Gowala (Duliajan) and Sanjoy Kishan (Tinsukia) are all locked in triangular contest with Congress or its alliance partners and the AJP.
AGP Ministers Atul Bora from Bokakhat and Keshab Mahanta from Kaliabor are also engaged in triangular contests.
Congress Legislature Party leader Debabrata Saikia (Nazira) and the Assam Pradesh Congress Committee president Ripun Borah (Gohpur) are engaged in direct contests with their BJP opponents Mayur Borgohain and Utpal Borah respectively.
Jailed Raijor Dal leader Akhil Gogoi is contesting from Sivasagar as an independent and is engaged in a triangular contest with BJP's Surabhi Rajkonwar and Congress's Subhramitra Gogoi.
AJP President Lurinjyoti Gogoi is contesting from Duliajan and Naharkatiya and is pitted against Congress and BJP in both the constituencies.
In Batadroba and Teok constituencies, there is a direct contest between two women contestants in each with sitting BJP MLA Angoorlata Deka contesting against Congress's Sibamoni Bora in the former and sitting AGP MLA and former Deputy Speaker Renupama Rajkhowa contesting against Pallabi Gogoi of Congress. PTI DG JRC JRC