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35% polling till noon in Assam

Guwahati, Apr 7 (PTI): A little over a third of the 6.4 million voters in five Lok Sabha constituencies of Assam had cast their votes till noon on Monday, with just one clash with paramilitary forces reported, from Kaliabor constituency.

Election office sources said 27 per cent voting was registered in Tezpur, 45 per cent in Jorhat, 32 per cent in Lakhimpur, 38 per cent in Dibrugarh and 30 per cent in Koliabor during the first phase of elections in the state, making for 35 per cent of the 64,41,634.

With a large turnout of voters, long queues were seen in front of the 8,588 polling stations one hour before voting began at 7am, particularly in the rural areas where poll campaigning was intense.

A considerable number of the 6.5 lakh first time voters in the age group of 18 to 19 years registered in the state this time, were seen enthusiastically lining up to participate in the poll process.

Most of the early morning voters were women who said they wanted to cast their ballot before they began their housework for the day.

According to reports reaching here, 33 electronic voting machines (EVMs) malfunctioned in Dibrugarh, Kaliabor, Tezpur and Lakhimpur constituencies. Of them, 29 were later replaced while snags in the others were rectified and voting continued uninterrupted, they said.

Four persons, including a woman, suffered injuries when they clashed with CRPF personnel demanding they will allowed to cast their vote early at a voting centre in Sarupathar Silonijan area of Kaliabor constituency, police said.

Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, his wife Dolly Gogoi as well as his son and Koliabor constituency Congress candidate Gaurav Gogoi cast their vote in Jorhat.

Talking to reporters after casting his vote, the Chief Minister asserted that the Congress would sweep the polls in the state winning more than ten seats.

There is “no Modi magic but Tarun Gogoi magic in Assam. Earlier, I had said we will win ten seats but now I am sure the Congress will get more than that”, he said.

Former union minister and sitting MP Bijoy Krishna Handique, contesting as Congress nominee from Jorhat, also cast his vote with his family members.

Union ministers and contestants Paban Singh Ghatowar and Ranee Narah voted in Dibrugarh and Lakhimpur constituencies, respectively.

Sabananda Sonowal, BJP state unit president and contestant for Lakhimpur constituency, cast his mandate in Dibrugarh, they said.

The Congress, BJP, Trinamool Congress, AIUDF, AGP, AAP, SUCI, CPI(M), AIFB and SP are contesting in the five seats during the first phase of elections in the Congress-ruled state.        Congress rebel and Independent candidate Moni Kumar Subba is also in the fray.

There are five women candidates with the ruling Congress nominating Union minister Ranee Narah in Lakhimpur, AAP putting up Jinti Gogoi in Koliabor and Hiramoni Deka Sonowal in Lakhimpur, Trinamool Congress' Ribulya Gogoi in Jorhat, besides Independent Saheba Ahmed in Koliabor.

For the BJP, its unit president Sorbananda Sonowal and Kamakhya Prasad Tasa are contesting, while AGP nominees are former MP Arun Kumar Sarma, Pradip Hazarika and Joseph Toppo.

An electorate of 64,41,634, including 31,20,067 women, are expected to exercise their franchise.

The state election office was webcasting the poll process polling station-wise.        For the first time in the Northeast region and the third time in the country after Kashmir and Bihar, all polling booths have been declared smoking free.

The next phase of the polls will be held on April 12 for three Lok Sabha seats of Karimganj (SC), Silchar and Autonomous District (ST).