|Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi welcomes Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after his arrival in Guwahati on Thursday
Guwahati, April 24: The clock struck 12.30pm as the black BMW Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was travelling in entered the compound of Dispur Government Higher Secondary School here. He and his wife Gursharan Kaur alighted from the car at 12.31pm. In another two minutes Singh had cast his vote at polling station No. 188, perhaps for the last time as the Prime Minister of India.
After casting their votes, Singh and Kaur came near the barricaded enclosure for journalists and waved their inked fingers for photographs.
“I have come to Guwahati to exercise my right as a citizen of this great country. I am confident that the democratic process of the country is firmly established,” Singh, who has been a Rajya Sabha MP from Assam since 1991, said. This is the second time Singh has voted here, the previous being the 2009 Lok Sabha election. He did not vote in the 2011 Assembly election in the state.
Replying to a question, he said, “I don’t think the Congress is losing ground” and looked calm and comfortable as he replied to another query on the party’s chances in Assam. “We will get a majority here,” he said.
On the Narendra Modi wave, Singh said, “Modi wave is a creation of the media. I don’t think that the country as a whole is swept by any Modi wave.”
The Prime Minister, however, walked away as soon as he was asked about his former aide Sanjaya Baru’s book on him that has kicked up a controversy. Kaur had already entered the car parked about 5 metres away, but the Prime Minister looked back at journalists and posed for photographs.
An SPG officer requested Kaur to join the Prime Minister for photographs and she got down again.
“Singh stopped again, maybe because he cast his vote here for the last time as the Prime Minister,” a photojournalist said.
The booth under 52 Dispur Assembly constituency, which falls under Gauhati Lok Sabha constituency, had been awaiting its most famous voter since morning.
“The SPG made us flatten the concrete entrance as the running board of the Prime Minister’s car was touching it during trial last evening,” Alimuddin Ahmed, a police constable, told The Telegraph as the BMW (DL 3CBV 3000) with an SPG jawan in it did the final trial run at the school entrance at 9.40am. Three hours later, Singh and his wife reached the booth to vote.
The Prime Minister’s plane landed at Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport at Borjhar, 25km on the outskirts of the city, at 11.40am. A chopper carried him to the College of Veterinary Science playground at Khanapara from where a cavalcade of cars brought him to the polling booth, a distance of 4km, at 12.30pm.
Clad in white kurta pyjama, a black waistcoat and his trademark sky blue turban, Singh waved at newspersons on his left before entering the booth. Kaur followed the Prime Minister.
Singh was the 496th voter at the booth, which has 1,182 voters. Kaur was the 497th voter.
The presiding officer of the polling station, Tapan Kochari, was touched by the Prime Minister’s gesture as he entered the booth to cast his vote. “Normally big leaders wave their hands but our Prime Minister and his wife folded their hands and said namaskar to us,” Kochari, a physics teacher at Assam Engineering Institute here, said. Three polling officers, Kishore Kumar Das, Robin Chandra Rajbongshi and Biplob Fauzdar, nodded.
Karima Rahman, 62, of Sarumotoria, who had cast her vote minutes before Singh and Kaur, seemed excited. “I waited for a while. It feels good to have a glimpse of the Prime Minister and his wife from so close,” the retired superintendent of the office of commissioner of lower Assam division, said.
As the BMW left the school compound with its VVIPs at 12.39pm, police constable Ahmed, 52, appeared to heave a sigh of relief, “Finally it’s over,” he said.
Ahmed, who hails from north Guwahati, on the north bank of the Brahmaputra, however, couldn’t go home to vote. “In the past 32 years of my service, I could vote only once, in the 2011 Assembly election. We are busier during elections,” he said, before boarding his jeep for the police reserve.
The Congress candidate for Gauhati seat is Manas Bora, son of Assam cabinet minister Akon Bora. Bijoya Chakravarty, the sitting MP, is the BJP candidate and Birendra Prasad Baishya is the AGP candidate. Altogether 18 candidates are in the fray.
Gauhati is one of the six Lok Sabha constituencies that went to polls today, the third and final phase of polling in Assam. Today’s polling concluded the 2014 Lok Sabha polls in the Northeast.