The stage is all set for the second and final phase of polls in 64 Assembly constituencies in 14 districts of Central and Lower Assam amid tight security on Monday.
Polling will be held amid tight security as violence was feared in the four Bodo Territorial Administered Districts where the Ranjan Daimary led anti-talk faction of National Democratic Front of Bodoland had indulged in few pre-poll incidents, official sources said.
Altogether 346 companies of central paramilitary forces have been deployed for the polls with 65 to 75 per cent of polling stations, including most of the critical ones to be covered by these security personnel and rest by police. Polling personnel assigned to far flung areas have already left for their stations since Friday last and those near to the district or sub-divisional headquarters were scheduled to leave by this evening, official sources said.
A variety of transport such as buses, bullock carts and boats have been pressed into service to transport the polling personnel while in remote areas of some Lower Assam districts, the polling party has to go on elephant back and even trek to reach their destination.
The districts going to polls include Dhubri, Kokrajhar, Bongaigaon, Goalpara, Barpeta, Kamrup(Metro), Kamrup(Rural), Nalbari, Baksa, Chirang, Udalguri, Darrang, Morigaon and Nagaon.
An electorate of 96,77,113 comprising 50,09,083 males and 46,68,030 female will decide the fate of 596 candidates, comprising 449 males and 47 female. In the second phase of polls, out of the total 12,589 polling stations, 2033 have been identified as hypersensitive, 4175 as sensitive and 475 as vulnerable.
Prominent candidates in the fray are: Revenue minister Bhumidhar Barman from Borkhetry, Health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma from Jalukbari, Tourism and Forest minister Rockybul Hussain from Samaguri, Education minister Gautam Bora from Batadraba and Social Welfare minister Akon Bora from Dispur.
The BPF, the coalition partner of ruling Congress, also have three ministers -- Agriculture minister Pramila Rani Brahma from Kokrajhar (East), Transport minister Chandan Brahma from Sidli and Public Health and Engineering Rihon Daimari from Udalguri (ST)-- among the eleven sitting party members of Parliament in the fray.
Former Chief Minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, Asom Gana Parishad President Chandramohan Patowary, former Speaker Pulakesh Barua, former AGP ministers Thaneswar Boro, Rekha Rani Das Barua, Atul Bora and Girin Barua are also in the fray.
The Congress, though burdened with an anti-incumbency factor, was expecting to enter the assembly for the third consecutive term and was engaged in a triangular contest with the BJP and AGP though the Bodoland Peoples' Front and All India United Democratic Front were expected to play a major role in the formation of the next government in the state.
The BPF has 11 sitting MLAs out of the 12 Assembly constituencies in four Bodoland Territorial Areas districts, while 26 constituencies are minority dominated in the three districts of Dhubri, Barpeta and Nagaon.
The BPF was contesting in 29 seats in this election while there were 154 minority candidates in the fray in the second phase. Dispur in Kamrup (Metro) and Sarukhetri in Barpeta districts have the highest number of 13 candidates while Chapaguri (ST) constituency in Baksa district has the least number of three candidates in fray.
The issues on which the different parties campaigned were varied with Congress leaders highlighting the development of the state, various schemes introduced during the last ten years, initiating peace talks with the United Liberated Front of Asom and utter chaos and economic mismanagement of the AGP during its rule.
The BJP and AGP harped mostly on corruption issues, particularly on the multi-crore funds diversion scam in North Cachar Hills and alleged failure of the Congress to solve the issues of foreigners' influx, flood, erosion and neglect of the weaker sections.
Campaigning for the second phase was high-pitched with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi, Union Home minister P Chidambaram, Union Minister for Minority Development Salman Khurshid, Delhi Chief Minister Shiela Dikshit, actor Raj Babbar, cricketer Azharuddin batting for Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi's achievements during the last ten years.
The BJP as in the first phase put in an aggressive campaign with several senior national leaders including former Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani, Leader of opposition Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, former party president Rajnath Singh, Assam Incharge and MP Varun Gandhi, television actress Smriti Irani campaigning for the candidates.
The AGP's campaign was muted with Party President Chandramohan Patowary and former Chief Minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta pitching in for candidates in the party strongholds.