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70% turnout in phase II rural polls
- Election peaceful, re-poll in 7 booths

Feb. 6: The second of the panchayat polls’ three phases in Assam today saw a voter turnout in excess of 70 per cent just like in the first held on January 30. It was also by and large peaceful just like the first phase.

Assam state election commissioner Biren Dutta said reports pouring in from the nine districts where polling was held suggest a 70 per cent-plus turnout. The turnout in the first phase was 74 per cent.

He said there would be re-polling in four stations owing to “irresponsibility” of some poll officials and in another three at Alupara gaon panchayat under Sonitpur district, because a few voters damaged ballot paper by pouring “some kind of liquid” into the ballot boxes. The troublemakers came in a Bolero, sources said.

Of the polling stations that will see re-polling because of official lapses, one is under Tezpur sub-division and two in Nalbari district. In the first phase, re-polling was held in 10 polling stations.

“Polling today was peaceful like in the first phase,” Dutta said.

There were, however, a few incidents elsewhere leading to a charged-up atmosphere. For instance, police caned a mob and fired in the air outside the polling station at Bidyapur under Bongaigaon police station when a group of voters, allegedly backed by Congress activists, tried to enter the polling station after voting ended. “The voters forcefully tried to enter the polling station after polling had ended and assaulted our men,” a police officer said.

Polling was also stopped for nearly two hours at the Dekargaon Chuk LP School centre under the Tezpur-Majgaon panchayat owing to problems with ballot papers.

Uttam Kalita, a voter, said, “I was standing since morning to cast my vote at the Dekargaon Chuk LP School. Later, I was transferred to the nearby Majgaon Balika LP School. How can it be possible?” he asked.

The situation was tense at Jamugurihat in Sonitpur district where the body of Jagat Nath, a Congress supporter, was found near Sootea Youth Congress president Pranjit Bhuyan’s house at Geraulua Chuk.

Moreover, non-Congress parties, including the BJP and AGP, alleged that the ruling party had violated the model code of conduct in this phase too. “We have written to the state election commission against the Congress’s use of muscle power during the elections and urged the authority to take steps,” AGP chief Prafulla Kumar Mahanta said at his Nagaon residence.

The third phase of the polls on February 12 will be the most crucial, as it will cover the sensitive Rabha Hasong council areas. Seeking the cooperation of all in holding peaceful elections there, the government said holding the polls was a constitutional obligation, to which it was fully committed. It stated that preparations were on in full swing to hold the third phase.