Roadmap in place for enforcement of COVID protocols and conducting safe and peaceful counting, police says.
Both the Mitrajot and Mahajot alliances are exuding confidence about forming the next government in Assam ahead of the counting of results of the Assam Assembly elections on Sunday.
Mitrajot is the four-party alliance headed by the BJP that hopes to retain power and Mahajot comprising 10 parties is headed by opposition Congress.
The exit polls have given an edge to the BJP and its regional allies Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), United People’s Party Liberal (UPPL) and Rabha Joutha Mancha.
“Our assessment is that our alliance will win 83 of the 126 seats, our party bagging 70 of them,” State BJP president Ranjeet Kumar Dass said. He is contesting the Patacharkuchi seat in western Assam.
His Congress counterpart and Rajya Sabha member Ripun Bora was equally confident. “Exit polls mean nothing. The people have voted for a change and our Mahajot will win at least 75 seats,” he said.
Among the key constituents of the Mahajot are the minority-based All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) and Bodoland People’s Front (BPF), an estranged ally of the BJP.
The elections were fought on the planks of development, the welfare of the State’s tea garden community, for and against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, waiving off the loans of women taken from microfinance institutions, giving jobs to the unemployed, protecting the satras (Vaishnavite monasteries) and the rhinos.
Another major issue was the National Register of Citizens (NRC) that left out 19.06 lakh of Assam’s 3.3 crore people. Unhappy with the exclusion figure, the BJP vowed to do the exercise afresh while the Mahajot favoured facilitating those deprived of citizenship.
According to political scientists, the 47 and 39 seats that went to polls in the first phase on March 27 and April 1 respectively would be crucial for the BJP. The BJP and AGP had in 2016 won 59 of the total 86 seats in these to phases covering eastern, northern, southern and partly central Assam.
Barring the Bengali-dominated southern Assam comprising Barak Valley, the other areas are dominated by the Assamese speakers, tribal groups and tea plantation workers. Muslims dominate large swathes of southern and central Assam.
The tea plantation workers, who hold sway in 45 seats, would be a major factor in the first phase. Muslims, who constitute more than 34% of the State’s population, are likely to call the shots in many of the seats in the second and third phases.
Apart from the tea-growing belt and Muslim-majority seats, the focus this time would be on 12 seats straddling the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC). The BPF had won all 12 seats in 2016 and had proved in the December 2020 BTC polls that it was no pushover and could ensure fewer seats for the Mitrajot.
Mandate 2021 saw a new regional front sired by the anti-CAA movement. This front of Assam Jatiya Parishad and jailed rights activist Akhil Gogoi’s Raijor Dal is expected to spring some surprises.
Meanwhile, Assam’s Director-General of Police said a roadmap has been prepared for handling the dual challenge of enforcing COVID protocols and ensuring a safe and peaceful counting on Sunday. “The COVID compliant roadmap was shared with all the district police heads,” he said.
He appealed to the leaders and members of the political parties to adhere to the guidelines of the Election Commission of India regarding the ban on celebrations, victory march and other post-results activities. “Saving society and people from this cruel surge of COVID-19 ought to be our top priority,” he said.
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