April 3: For a state that had previously braved the threat of militant bullets to vote, today’s pre-monsoon showers were only a minor deterrent.
An estimated 68 per cent of Assam’s electorate turned up at polling booths across the 65 constituencies that went to polls today, the trickle of voters in the first half of the rain-marred day transforming into a torrent in the afternoon.
Dhemaji, the scene of one of the worst militant attacks in 2004, led the turnout stakes with 78 per cent polling. It helped that the banned Ulfa is at present engaged in a peace process with Delhi.
The only glitch in an otherwise successful day for the Election Commission, which spared no effort to ensure free and fair polling, was the boycott by development-starved voters registered with nine polling stations.
State chief electoral officer J.P. Prakash said six of the nine polling stations were in Hailakandi and one each in Jagiroad, Dholai and Margherita constituencies.
Additional chief electoral officer R.C. Jain said repolling might be considered in some booths where electronic voting machines malfunctioned.
Deputy election commissioner R. Bhattacharya said in New Delhi that polling was “by and large peaceful and incident-free”. He said the only major incident was reported from Chabua constituency of Dibrugarh district, where miscreants damaged an electronic voting machine. A decision on repolling will be taken after receiving reports from poll observers, he said.
In the Barak Valley district of Cachar, where deployment of security personnel was the highest, a suspected militant of the Dima Halam Daogah fired in the air near a polling booth and fled. The sound of firing near the polling booth under Lakhipur constituency did trigger panic among voters, but security personnel promptly brought the situation under control.
The electoral fate of several political titans from the ruling Congress and the Opposition ' the list includes chief minister Tarun Gogoi ' was sealed today. Elections to the remaining 61 Assembly seats are slated for April 10.
Titabor, the chief minister’s constituency, recorded over 70 per cent polling. The much-publicised poll boycott by workers of five tea gardens turned out to be a mere threat.
PCC president Bhuba-neswar Kalita said the Congress would win over 50 per cent of the seats for which polling was conducted in the first phase. The other parties made similar claims.
In New Delhi, a team of central BJP leaders called on chief election commissioner B.B. Tandon to discuss Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s alleged announcement of sops to voters in Karbi Anglong.
The Election Commission ordered filing of cases against AGP chief Brindaban Goswami, party colleague A. Bhattacharjee and Rama Mohan Rao of the Telugu Desam for holding a news conference yesterday in Guwahati.