Assam election 2021: 76.96% turnout recorded in 'peaceful' phase 2 polling; EC issues notice to Himanta Biswa Sarma

Assam election 2021: 76.96% turnout recorded in 'peaceful' phase 2 polling; EC issues notice to Himanta Biswa Sarma

Long queues were seen outside most of the 10,592 polling stations across the 13 districts in the Barak Valley, the Hill region and parts of Central and Lower Assam since early morning

Around 77 percent of the electorate in 39 Assembly constituencies in Assam turned out to vote on Thursday, which was the second phase of the three-phased election. Polling was conducted peacefully even though there were reports of EVM glitches from some polling stations, PTI reported.

Follow reportage of Assembly elections 2021 here

The report quoted an EC official as saying that the malfunctioning EVMs were “immediately” replaced so “voting continued uninterrupted”.

Long queues were seen outside most of the 10,592 polling stations across the 13 districts in the Barak Valley, the Hill region and parts of Central and Lower Assam since early morning. As of 9 pm, the overall polling percentage was estimated to be 76.96 percent, according to the Election Commission’s Voter Turnout app.

A significant number of women voters were seen turning up early to cast their vote. At most places, voters were found wearing masks and maintaining social distance as they stood inside the rings drawn at six feet distance outside the polling stations.

They were also checked with thermal scanners for body temperature, given sanitiser and disposable plastic gloves before they went into the polling booth to cast their vote.

For senior citizens in the Cachar district, an e-rickshaw service was made available to ferry them to the polling booth. Meanwhile, wheelchairs were provided at all the election centres, and resting areas were created for senior citizens to wait for their turn to vote, PTI reported.

Voting began at 7 am and ended at 6 pm with the extra hour given in view of the pandemic.

Among the prominent candidates who voted on Thursday are Karimganj (North) MLA Kamalakhya Dey Purakayastha of Congress and his BJP opponent Manash Das, BJP’s Nalbari candidate Jayanta Malla Baruah, UPPL’s Gobinda Chandra Basumatary, and former Asam Sahitya Sabha president and BJP candidate from Sipajhar Paramanda Rajbongshi.

Senior Congress leader Sushmita Dev also cast her vote at a polling booth in Silchar and asserted that her party will win the elections.

On the political front, the Election Commission issued a notice to Assam minister and BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma for allegedly making “threatening” remarks against Hagrama Mohilary of the Bodoland People’s Front. Sarma has been asked to respond to the notice by 5 pm on Friday.

Meanwhile, Sarma tweeted that BPF leader Rangja Khungur Basumatary, who had gone missing since Wednesday, has joined the saffron party. Basumatary is the Congress-led Mahajoth’s alliance from Tamulkur constituency, which is slated to go to polls in the third and final phase on 6 April.

While voting was being held in 39 constituencies undergoing polling in the second phase, campaigning continued in the seats voting as part of the third phase. Prime Minister Narendra Modi hit the campaign trail in the state on Thursday, addressing a rally in Assam’s Kokrajhar. Drawing a football analogy, the BJP leader claimed that the people have shown the “red card” to the Congress-led Grand Alliance or Mahajoth in the state.

He also accused the previous Congress governments of being “mute spectators” for decades to unbridled violence in the Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR) of the state.

“Football is a popular sport among the youths of Assam, and to use their parlance, the people of Assam have shown the Congress-led alliance the red card,” he said at the rally.

On the other hand, Congress exuded confidence about their victory after polling in the second phases ended at 6 pm. The party claimed that the Grand Alliance led by it will reach the majority mark of 64 in the 126-member Assam Assembly from the results of the first two phases of the election as the people of the state have responded to its “positive campaign”.

Addressing a press conference, AICC spokesperson Gourav Vallabh said that the Congress-led Grand Alliance is on track to achieve its target of winning 101 seats in the elections.

EC issues notice to Himanta Biswa Sarma

The Congress had approached the EC alleging that Sarma had threatened to send Mohilary to jail by “misusing the NIA”. The Bodoland People’s Front is an ally of the Congress in Assam.

The notice to Sarma cited various provisions of the MCC, including the one dealing with refraining from making unverified allegations against political rivals, and avoiding “corrupt practices” and offences under the election law, such as bribing of voters, intimidation of voters and impersonation of voters.

“…the Commission is, prima facie, of the view that Sarma has violated the above said provisions of the Model Code of Conduct,” the notice read.

It also quoted a transcript of the speech provided by the state election machinery.

“If Hagrama does extremism with Batha he will go to jail. This is a straight talk. If Hagrama encourages Batha, he will go to jail. Already got lot of evidence. This case is beinq qiven to NIA (sic),” according to a portion of Sarma’s speech made part of the notice.

People have ‘blessed’ NDA with votes in first phase: Modi

People of Assam have bestowed their blessings on the NDA in the first phase of the Assembly poll, Modi said at the poll rally on Thursday.

Accusing the Congress of failing to resolve the violence in the Bodoland region, he said, “In the long years of its rule, the Congress threw Bodoland into a bomb, bandook (gun) and blockade culture. In 2016, we had come to you with the promise of peace and development. During the last five years, we made sincere efforts and gifted Bodoland peace and respect.”

“It was under former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee that the first Bodo Accord was signed and the present NDA government has paved the way for permanent peace by sealing the historic Bodoland Accord, leading to progress and development of the region,” he added.

“Our mantra for the BTR is peace, progress and protection, and we have initiated the development of the region by bringing in projects to the tune of thousands of crore of rupees,” the prime minister said.

Thousands of militant youth have surrendered with their arms and the NDA is committed to their rehabilitation, he claimed.

Voters greeted with ‘gamosa‘ scarves

In many of the 117 model polling stations, the first voters were greeted with the traditional Assamese scarf ‘gamosa‘ as well as with saplings.

Thunderstorms accompanied by lightning, rain, hailstones and gusty winds reaching up to 30-40 kilometres per hour hit the Karimganj district in the morning, but the weather cleared later in the day, enabling voters to step out, PTI reported.

Rains and thunderstorms are common ahead of the Rongali Bihu festival, which is a fortnight away.

Selfie stands with “I voted” written on them and wallpaper stands seeking comments were reportedly a favourite among voters, particularly the first-time electors.

The total electorate include 37,34,537 men and 36,09,959 women. Election to the 126-member Assembly is being held in three phases with 79.97 percent of the electorate exercising their franchise in 47 constituencies in the first phase on 27 March. The third and final phase elections for 40 seats will be held on 6 April.

The votes will be counted on 2 May.

With inputs from PTI

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