Guwahati, Jan. 29: The stage is set for the first phase of the three-phase panchayat elections to be held tomorrow with the ruling Congress confident of a comprehensive victory but equally wary of dissidents and the AIUDF spoiling its party.
While Opposition parties such as AIUDF, AGP, BJP and Left are either trying to rebuild, consolidate or regain lost bastions, the Congress is having to mostly deal with its own dissidents, a group of which today assaulted the Kamrup district Congress committee president Hanshadhar Kalita at Kamalpur, unhappy with allotment of party tickets.
However, the party appeared bullish on poll-eve. PCC spokesperson and secretary Kishore Bhattacharyya said, “We have already won around 20 per cent of the ward member posts uncontested. This only shows that despite the criticism, allegations and hurdles, Congress will always remain in the heart of all Indians. The result will be far better than the expected 80 per cent.”
Nazira MLA Debarata Saikia backed Bhattacharyya’s optimism. “There is simply no competition here. We have already won the posts of 19 ward members uncontested,” he said.
Congress insiders, however, said that despite the bullishness, the party is “worried” about any adverse outcome. “The poll has become very important. It will not be about doing well but also checking the AIUDF. If they perform well then there will be serious rethinking on allying with the AIUDF in the 2014 elections, which is critical for the Congress if it wants to continue in Delhi,” a sitting MLA told The Telegraph.
For the Congress, which has won three straight Assembly and two panchayat elections, the result will reflect its actual strength in the field. The same is true for the other contesting parties. “Party leaders in minority-dominated constituencies have already been sounded to work unitedly to thwart AIUDF consolidation. All important leaders will flock to lower Assam and Barak Valley after the first phase tomorrow,” the MLA said.
AIUDF, which won 10 seats in the 2006 Assembly elections, added eight more in the 2011 polls, compounding the worries of the Congress in minority-dominated districts.
Of the nine districts going to the polls tomorrow, AIUDF is concentrating on Nagaon, Sonitpur and Lakhimpur districts, leaving Jorhat, Tinsukia, Golaghat, Sivasagar — all Congress bastions — untouched.
State election commissioner Biren Dutta said he was hopeful of an absolutely peaceful election and a festival-like atmosphere. “I hope people will cast their vote to choose the right person and voting will be absolutely peaceful,” he said.
The polls are as important to the rural population as it is for the political parties, as the people get a chance to directly plan and participate in the development of their areas. “Panchayati raj institutions expedite the development process and strengthen democracy by decentralising power. Almost all rural households participate in the exercise unlike the Assembly or general elections,” Bhattacharyya said.