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Assam polls: BJP, Cong face challenge to retain seats in third phase

Last updated on: April 23, 2014 03:24 IST

Electioneering for the third and the final phase of polling in Assam to be held on April 24 in six constituencies – Gauhati, Dhubri, Kokrajhar, Barpeta, Mangaldoi and Nowgong -- came to an end on Tuesday afternoon with the election department expecting a high turn out on the basis of overwhelming response of voters in the last two phases of polling in the state.

A total 74 candidates are in the fray in all the six constituencies going for polls on April 24. As many as 94,21,977 voters are expected to exercise their franchise in this phase of polling that will be held in total 11,994 polling stations across the six constituencies.

Out of these six constituencies, three -- Gauhati, Mangaldoi and Nowgong -- were won by the Bharatiya Janata Party in the last election in 2009 while the Congress won Barpeta. The All India United Democratic Front won Dhubri while the Bodoland People’s Front won Kokrajhar in the last election.

In Guahati, with over 19 lakh voters, the sitting BJP Member of Parliament Bijoya Chakraborty is finding it tough to retain he seat this time in the face of challenge posed by Congress candidate Manash Borah and Asom Gana Parishad candidate Birendra Prasad Baishya.

Two factors are working against the BJP in the constituency -- the AGP candidate is threatening to eat into the BJP vote base while sizeable Muslim voters in the constituency may get segregated in favour of Congress given that the AIUDF, a minority political party, has fielded Gopi Nath Das who does not have firm base among the minority voters in the constituency.

Despite the Modi wave sweeping the constituency, Congress campaign managers believe that division of votes between the BJP and the AGP will see their candidate sail though.

In Mangaldoi, the sitting BJP MP Ramen Deka is facing stiff challenge from Congress 
candidate Kirip Chaliha who has been supported by Bodo groups so that Bodo tribe votes in the constituency go in his favour. Here also, the AIUDF fielded a not-so-strong candidate, Paresh Baishya who is hardly expected to win Muslims votes in the constituency.

The Congress has however suffered a setback in the constituency because of its rebel candidate Madhab Rajbongshi who is contesting as an AGP candidate this time. The electioneering trend indicates a fight between the BJP and the Congress in the constituency with over 15 lakh voters.

In Nowgong constituency, the sitting BJP MP Rajen Gohain is enjoying an advantage because of absence of very high profile candidate from other political party. The Congress has fielded one of its women Member of Legislative Assembly, Jonjonali Baruah from Nowgong. As per the trend of electioneering it will be a battle between the BJP and the Congress with over 15 lakh voters.

In Dhubri, where Muslim voters, who are a majority, decide the fate of candidates in the fray, it will be a fight between sitting AIUDF MP Badruddin Ajmal and Congress candidate Wazed Ali Choudhury even though the BJP candidate Dr Debamoy Sanyal has scored some point towards the later part of electioneering. The constituency, with over 15 lakh voters is a known bastion of both the AIUDF and the Congress.

In Barpeta, with over 14 lakh voters, the sitting Congress MP Ismail Hussain is facing a tough challenge from the AIUDF candidate Sirajuddin Ajmal and to some extent from the BJP candidate Chandra Mohan Patowary. The constituency has Muslims including immigrant Muslims as the largest single bock of voters who can decide the fate of candidates in the election. 

The BJP this time has fielded a strong candidate there with a hope to break new grounds in the constituency that has been a bastion of Congress for long. The glare is focused on Kokrajhar (ST) constituency located in the Bodo tribe heartland this elections, given that there the Bodo People’s Front is facing the toughest challenge this time to retain the seat. Because of the tough situation this time the BPF has decided not to field it’s sitting MP Sansuma Khunggur Bwiswmutiary and instead nominated Chandan Brahma, a minister in the Assam cabinet.

The Congress has not fielded any candidate in Kokrajhar in favour of its ally, the BPF. However, a dejected Bwiswmutiary standing as an Independent candidate the BPF has found the going a bit tough and it has been further complicated because of presence of another popular Bodo tribe candidate Urkhao Gwra Brahma (Independent) in the fray. This will definitely lead to division of Bodo tribe voters among these three Bodo candidates.

The influential All Bodo Students’ Union which has sharp differences with the BPF leadership, has extended support to independent candidate Urkhao Gwra Brahma, a former president of the ABSU. The BJP which has not fielded any candidate in Kokrajhar has extended support to U G Brahma.

Another prominent candidate in the fray in the constituency is Naba Kumar Sarania (Hira), a former militant of the United Liberation Front of Assam. He is contesting as an 

Independent. He has been supported by All Bodoland Muslim Students Union, a united forum of 23 non-Bodo communities and a faction of All Koch-Rajbongshi Students Union. 
As per the electioneering trend Naba Kumar Sarania has emerged as a challenge to all the three Bodo tribe candidates -- Chandan Brahma (BPF), Sansuma K Bwiswmutiary (Independent) and Urkhao G Brahma (Independent) -- as he would be a common choice for non-Bodos opposed to the Bodoland state demand.

All the three Bodo tribe candidates are supporters of Bodoland state demand and are going to share votes of Bodo people. There are over 15 lakh voters in Kokrajhar constituency out of which four lakh are tribal voters.

Out of the tribal voters 3.25 lakh are Bodo tribe voters while the rest belong to non-Bodo tribes. About 11 lakh non-tribal voters in the constituency include about three lakh Muslims, 2.90 lakh adivasis, 2.60 lakh Koch-Rajbongshis and rest are Assamese, Hindi and  Nepali-speaking and other voters.

Graphic: KBK Graphics

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