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Assam Polls: Campaigning for phase 1 ends

Stakes high for BJP and AGP, which together won 35 of the 47 seats in this phase in 2016

Campaigning for the first phase of the Assam Assembly elections covering 47 of the 126 constituencies came to an end on Thursday.

The stakes for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) are highest in this phase as the two allies had won 35 of these 47 seats in 2016.

The outcome in this phase will also be crucial for Congress, which leads the 10-party Mahajot or grand alliance.

Tea plantation workers, weaned away by the BJP, are a deciding factor in more than 35 of these 47 seats.

Phase 1 would be a litmus test for the parties on either side of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, too. While the BJP insists CAA has no impact on the ground, Congress made it one of its five main issues, as did two new regional parties — Assam Jatiya Parishad (AJP) and Raijor Dal — that were forged in the anti-CAA agitation fire.

The anti-CAA movement was initially the strongest across these 47 seats but waned with time. Many leaders spearheading the movement joined the BJP.

Among the heavyweights in this phase are Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, who seeks to retain the Brahmaputra River “island” constituency of Majuli, AGP president Atul Bora and his party colleague and Minister Keshab Mahanta. The two are seeking re-election from Bokakhat and Kaliabor, respectively.

Three other party presidents — State Congress chief Ripun Bora (Gohpur), his Assam Jatiya Parishad (AJP) counterpart Lurinjyoti Gogoi (Duliajan and Naharkatiya), and Raijor Dal president Akhil Gogoi (Sibsagar) — are in the fray in this phase.

Other key leaders include former Congress minister Rakibul Hussain (Samaguri) and former BJP leader turned AJP general secretary Jagadish Bhuyan (Sadiya).

There are 264 candidates, including 23 women, contesting in 47 constituencies going to polls in the first phase. The Congress is contesting 43 seats, the AJP 41, the BJP 39 and the AGP 10.

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