In second phase of Assam polls, keen contest likely in Bengali-majority valley

Contrary to the first phase covering 47 seats, the pro-CAA sentiment may be at play

Phase two of Assam polls is expected to be a test for the pro-Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) sentiment in the Bengali-dominated Barak Valley in contrast to the first phase of polling across 47 seats in the Assamese-dominated Brahmaputra Valley, where anti-CAA emotions had run high more than a year ago.

Barak Valley has 15 of the 39 phase two seats. Eight of this are Hindu-majority and seven are Muslim-dominated.

In the 2016 polls, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP0 and its regional ally Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) had won 24 of the phase two seats before adding the 25th after a Congress MLA resigned to contest for the BJP in the bye-election. Of the Barak Valley seats, the BJP had won eight, the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) three, and Congress two.

Unlike in West Bengal, the BJP has remained silent on the issue of CAA during campaigning in Assam, apparently to not annoy Assamese voters in the Brahmaputra Valley. The Congress and AIUDF, fighting together this time, have adopted an anti-CAA stand.

“The Congress has gone against the tide by opposing CAA in the Barak Valley. But this may not give the BJP an edge, as it has dropped at three seasoned leaders and given tickets to people accused of running various syndicates. The Congress-AIUDF alignment may also consolidate loyal voters in non-Muslim areas,” Silchar-based political analyst Arijit Aditya said.

The BJP may also face a tough time in five phase two seats straddling the three hill districts of Dima Hasao, Karbi Anglong and Western Karbi Anglong. The party dropped four of its MLAs, angering their supporters.

The 19 other seats are spread across central and parts of northern and western Assam. The BJP and the AGP had won 12 of them in the last elections. The BJP’s estranged ally Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) had won four seats.

After ditching the BPF, the BJP aligned with the United People’s Party Liberal (UPPL). The BPF is expected to make it difficult for both the UPPL and BJP in the constituencies under Bodoland Territorial Region.

RS member, 3 Ministers

Phase two of polling will seal the fate of Rajya Sabha member Biswajit Daimary, who quit the BPF in 2020 and is contesting the Panery seat for the BJP. Other key contestants are Ministers Parimal Suklabaidya (Dholai), Pijush Hazarika (Jagiroad) and Bhabesh Kalita (Rangia), and Deputy Assembly Speaker Aminul Haque Laskar (Sonai).

Mr. Haque is the BJP’s only Muslim MLA.

Other notable candidates are former Deputy Speaker Dilip Kumar Paul, who is contesting the Silchar seat as an independent, and Minister Sum Ronghang, who is contesting the Diphu seat as a Congress candidate. Both were denied a ticket by the BJP. The AIUDF has Sirajuddin Ajmal, party president Badaruddin Ajmal’s brother, contesting the Jamunamukh seat.

Former Congress heavyweight Gautam Roy is contesting the Katigorah seat on a BJP ticket while his son Rahul Roy and daughter-in-law Daisy Roy are contesting the Udharbond and Algapur seats as independents. The three have assets worth ₹142.57 crore.

The first phase of polling on March 27 had recorded a voter turnout of 79.97%.

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