Large dams and flood problems are campaign issues both for the Congress and Asom Gana Parishad locked in direct contest in most of the six assembly seats in THE flood-prone Lakhimpur and Dhemaji districts which go to the polls on April 4.
The constituencies of Dhakuakhana, Bihpuria, Lakhimpur and Jonai on the north bank of the river Brahmaputra which along with its tributaries Subansari, Ranganadi and Dikrong are responsible for the havoc caused by annual flooding will witness direct contest. Naoboicha and Dhemaji are expected to witness a triangular contest.
The Congress, which won four of the seats and independents the remaining two in the last elections, is finding the going tough with people asking uncomfortable questions about the perennial floods, erosion, poor roads, lack of proper education and medical facilities.
The Congress, however, is upbeat of not only retaining the seats, but also gaining both Naoboicha, where the sitting independent member of legislative assembly Sanjay Rai is now contesting as a party candidate, and Jonai.
Prominent candidates battling it out to retain their seats are culture and sports minister Bharat Chandra Narah from Dhakuakhana, controversial former Congress member of Parliament Mani Kumar Subba's brother Sanjay Rai Subba from Naoboicha, firebrand anti-big dams protagonist and independent Bhubon Pegu from Jonai and vocal Congress member of legislative assembly Bhupen Kumar Borah.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is scheduled to address a campaign rally in Dhakuakhana for Narah where he is likely to address the issue of large dams and development. Narah claimed that the region had witnessed considerable development during the last 10 years of Congress rule and people have realised that if the party came to power, their conditions would improve further.
The opposition AGP and the Bharatiya Janata party along with independents, however, have made the construction of big dams on Subansiri river a major issue and were also highlighting the Congress government's 'failure' to solve the annual flooding.
AGP President Chandramohan Patowary said, "The Congress is immune to the problems of Lakhimpur and Dhemaji where people face untold miseries every year due to floods."Now, by allowing construction of a large dam on the river Subansiri, they are adding to their misery."
The constituents mainly comprise a predominant scheduled tribe population of Mising and Sonowal Kacharis along with an influential section of Assamese Muslims, Nepalese, Bengalis, Assamese caste Hindus and Ahoms. In Dhakuakhana, Narah, who won comfortably in 2006 polling 43.18 per cent, is locked in a direct contest with AGP's Naba Chandra Doley and a close contest is expected.
In Naoboicha, a triangular contest is on the cards with Congress's Sanjay Rai Subba having an edge over his AGP rival Phanidhar Boruah and independent Sultan Ahmed who is expected to get a substantial chunk of the constituency's minority vote.
In Bihpuria, sitting Congress MLA Bhupen Kumar Bora is locked in a direct contest with AGP's Kesharam Bora, while in Lakhimpur it will be a show of strength between the two parties where sitting Congress MLA Ghana Buragohain will clash with AGP's former minister Utpal Dutta with the regional party having an edge.In Dhemaji, a triangular contest is in the offing with sitting Congress MLA Sumita Doley Patir facing a tough fight from AGP's Parmananda Sonowal and BJP's Sailen Sonowal. In Jonai, sitting independent MLA Bhubon Pegu, who has been at the forefront anti-dam agitation, is also locked in a direct contest with Congress's Pradan Baruah and has an advantage in the forthcoming polls.