Nava J Thakuria
Guwahati: Voting for five Assam legislative assembly constituencies in northeast India began on Saturday morning and nearly 32% polling has been recorded till 11 am. Bhabanipur has reported highest polling (41%), where Mariani reported lowest turnout (20 %) in the first four hours of voting.
The electoral authority had earlier completed all arrangements for conduct of the ensuing by-elections in a free, fair and safe manner. The campaigning in all seats came to an end on Wednesday evening as the silence period began for the 30 October polls, where altogether 31 candidates are in the fray.
State chief electoral officer Nitin Khade informed that 7,96,456 general electors are scheduled to exercise their franchise electing their preferred candidates to the State assembly from Gossaigaon, Bhabanipur, Tamulpur, Mariani and Thowra seats. He also added that all preparations were completed for smooth conduct of the by-elections and to keep a strong vigilance on law & order, expenditure, etc the election authority appointed a number of general, police and expenditure observers.
In the polling exercise, a total of 5,410 polling personnel are being engaged and 1,869 ballot units, 1,844 control units along with 1,861 VVPATs are used. As a major push for conducting free & fair elections, live monitoring and webcasting has been arranged by the authority.
Webcasting is going from all the 1,176 polling stations, out of which 285 are in Gossaigaon seat, 213 in Bhawanipur, 322 in Tamulpur, 183 in Mariani and 173 in Thowra constituency. Through webcasting, the election authority will be able to monitor the polling process live on the polling day.
The personnel belonging to central armed police forces have been deployed at each polling station for security measures and finally to ensure a conducive atmosphere for the voting. In the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic, the authority has taken every possible precautionary measure to ensure that all the polling stations follow the corona related guidelines for the safety of voters and election officials.
Each and every polling station was sanitized one day prior to the event and facility of thermal scanning, hand sanitizers, face-masks are being made available. The electorates are ensured minimum facilities like drinking water, waiting shed, toilet, adequate arrangement for lighting, wheelchairs for needy persons, etc in all polling station areas. Arrangements like transport facility for elderly people, assistance from volunteers to PwDs, etc are also being made.
The ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) has fielded three former legislators belonging to Indian National Congress (INC) and All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF). One of the saffron allies, United People’s Party Liberal (UPPL) has nominated its candidates for two other seats. They will be challenged by representatives from INC, AIUDF, Bodoland People’s Front, Gana Suraksha Party, Communist Party of India, etc.
Presently, the ruling BJP party has 59 legislators in the 126-member State legislative assembly and its allies Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) has nine MLAs and UPPL has five legislators. The opposition Congress has 27 legislators and AIUDF has 15 MLAs. BPF, a former ally of BJP, has 3 legislators and CPI(M) has one member. The assembly also has one independent legislator (who represents Raijor Dol).
The by-elections are in progress in three north-eastern States namely Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland. In Meghalaya, by-elections take place in Mawryngkneng, Mawphlang and Rajabala assembly constituencies, whereas Mizoram witnesses by-elections in Turial assembly constituency and Nagaland in Shamtorr-Chessor assembly seat.