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Campaign wheels halt in
Assam Parties kick up final dust

April 22: After months of fuelling hopes and aspirations of voters and tearing into each other to get heard in the din, the high-decibel poll campaign juggernaut for the third and final phase of elections to six seats in Assam came to a screeching halt this evening.

From organising road shows to holding last-minute rallies and news meets to convey their commitment for a better tomorrow, political parties and candidates today made a last-ditch attempt to woo voters in Nagaon, Guwahati, Mangaldoi, Kokrajhar, Barpeta and Dhubri which go to the polls on Thursday. The first phase (five seats) was held on April 7 and the second (three seats) on April 12.

The campaigning got shriller as its entered the last leg with the leading contenders — the Congress, the BJP, the AIUDF and the AGP — leaving no stone unturned to influence the 94,37,731 electors who will decide the fate of 74 candidates. It also got personal and polarised.

An hour before the close of campaign at 5pm, Assam BJP president Sarbananda Sonowal hit out at the Tarun Gogoi government over the dismal power scenario in the state, price rise and patronising illegal migrants. “During a poll meeting at Fancy Bazar on April 11, the chief minister had not only asked the traders to vote for the Congress but also to pay donation. It seems in order to pay donation to the ruling party, the traders have jacked up prices of the essentials,” Sonowal said.

Two hours earlier, the AGP hit out at the national political parties saying their MPs can’t take up problems faced by the state in Parliament. “The BJP MPs have dual character. They remain silent in Parliament and then call bandhs in Assam opposing the India-Bangladesh land-swap deal in a bid to hoodwink the people,” AGP working president Atul Bora said.

Gogoi, who has been campaigning relentlessly since last month, wound up his campaign at Mangaldoi, his second rally of the day, by 3pm with the assertion that Assam has been better off under Congress rule than it was during the NDA and AGP rule.

Shazia Ilmi, a member of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)’s national executive in Guwahati, interacted with reporters and led a road show to campaign for her party’s candidate Pranjal Bordoloi. “I am confident of AAP winning the Gauhati seat. There is an unprecedented support for the party in the rural pockets of the constituency,” Bordoloi said.

Braving the scorching sun, BJP candidate Bijoya Chakravarty took out a cycle rally in Guwahati while Manas Bora of the Congress took out a bike rally to sway voters. The AGP’s Biren Baishya also held a road show. A 400-strong bike rally was also taken out by the BJP in Dhubri, Gauripur and Golokganj. The ruling Congress also concluded its campaign with a bike rally in Dhubri. AIUDF chief Badruddin Ajmal, who is seeking re-election from Dhubri, addressed two rallies.

The Trinamul Congress’s Gauhati candidate and veteran actor Biju Phukan appealed to voters to elect him. “I had the misconception that people in rural areas did not know much about Mamata Banerjee. I have requested the people to give me a chance to serve them,” he said at a news conference.

The last leg of the campaign was, however, marred by stray incidents of pre-poll-related violence in Chirang district under Kokrajhar constituency. BPF supporters allegedly abused Andalon Basumatary, spokesperson for Absu’s Gurubasha unit. Angry residents later set on fire the house of Rajeshwar Basumatary, a member of The BPF’s Gurubasha unit. The residents also vandalised the house of one Phungka Wary for beating the Absu leader.

The Kokrajhar district administration said steps have been taken to ensure free and fair elections. In the final phase, in terms of electorate, Kokrajhar is the smallest and Gauhati the biggest constituency.