Over 65 per cent exercised their franchise in the first phase of polling for 65 assembly constituencies spread over 14 districts of Assam on Monday.
Informing this a senior election official, however, said that the percentage polling was is to go up as final reports of poll turn out were yet to be received from polling stations located in remote areas. Over 70 percent polling were recorded in the last three assembly polls in the state in 1991, 1996 and 2001.
The polling, which started at 7 am under watchful eyes of poll observers under heavy security arrangement, passed off peacefully throughout the state. Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) were used in all the 9723 polling stations. Out of these, 1,797 polling stations had been identified as very sensitive and 3,227 as sensitive.
Rains played spoilsport in the early hours of polling in some areas, including Guwahati and Dibrugarh cities. However, polling picked up towards the afternoon after the skies cleared out.
Heavy polling in the range of 65 to 70 per cent were recorded in the banned United Liberation Front of Assam's strongholds in Upper Assam's Sadiya, Doomdooma and Digboi constituencies. Polling was over 70 per cent in northern Assam constituencies of Jonai and Dhemaji as well as in Majuli, the biggest river island on the globe located in the bosom of mighty Brahmaputra river.
However, low polling were recorded in certain minority-dominated areas in Barak Valley and Central Assam. The voters were asked to produce any of the 23 documents prescribed by the EC to identify themselves in polling booths before casting their votes.
Of the 65 assembly seats in the first phase, 34 are in Upper Assam, 15 in Barak Valley, 10 in Kamrup district, three each in Morigaon district and Hojai subdivision of Nagaon district. Algapur constituency in southern Assam has the highest number of 25 candidates in the fray, while Titabor in Jorhat district has the lowest number of four candidates.
Monday's polls will decide the fate of several heavyweights including Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi (Titabor), Speaker Prithvi Majhi (Lahowal), state Congress president Bhubaneswar Kalita (Rangiya) and former Union minister Bijoya Chakraborty (Dispur), apart from several sitting legislators.
Unlike earlier polls, which had been marred by militants violence despite voter turnout of over 75 per cent, voting was peaceful this time with people coming out to vote without fear. Both banned ULFA and NDFB decided to keep away from the election.
ULFA chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa has instead asked the people to vote for the party, which would raise the issue of Assam's "sovereignty". ULFA 'commander-in-chief' Paresh Barua's octogenarian mother Miliki Barua also cast her vote.
The second and last phase of polls in Assam will be held on April 10.
With PTI Inputs