GUWAHATI, April 18 - Triangular contests are expected in three out of the four constituencies of Assam which will go to the poll in the third phase of the Lok Sabha elections on April 23, while the Guwahati seat is likely to witness a direct fight between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the principal opposition Congress.
Guwahati, Barpeta, Dhubri and Kokrajhar constituencies are going to the polls in the third phase.
In the last parliamentary elections held in 2014, the BJP had emerged victorious from Guwahati and the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) had won from Barpeta and Dhubri, while the Kokrajhar seat had gone to an Independent candidate.
Unlike 2014, this time the BJP has an alliance with the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and the Bodoland People�s Front (BPF), as well as with three other smaller local parties.
As part of the seat-sharing arrangements among the NDA constituents, BJP has fielded its own candidate from the Guwahati constituency, while Barpeta and Dhubri have been allotted to the AGP, and the Kokrajhar seat to the BPF.
The AIUDF and the United People�s Party Liberal (UPPL) have entered into a �political understanding� for the Dhubri, Barpeta and Kokrajhar constituencies.
Minority voters are dominant in Dhubri and Barpeta constituencies and also play a major role in the other two seats going to the poll in the third phase.
While Dhubri is mainly minority dominated, it has also significant number of Bengali Hindus, Bodos and Koch Rajbongshis.
There is a huge concentration of minority and Bengali Hindu voters in Barpeta, besides those belonging to the Assamese community, including Koch Rajbongshis.
In the Kokrajhar seat, the Bodo community plays a leading role but the constituency has also significant segments of electorate belonging to diverse communities, including minorities, Assamese, Bengali Hindus and Adivasis.
The Guwahati constituency also has a significant number of electorates from the minority community, Bengali Hindus, Hindi-speaking voters, and tribal communities like the Bodos, Rabhas and Karbis, besides the Assamese voters.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha poll, Bijoya Chakravarty of BJP had defeated her nearest rival Manash Borah of Congress by a margin of over 3.15 lakh votes in Guwahati.
The AIUDF has then polled over 1.37 lakh votes in the constituency, while the AGP had secured over 86,000 votes.
Guwahati is the most urbanized of all the 14 Lok Sabha constituencies of Assam and it has also the highest number of electors. Interestingly, no single party has ever managed to win from the Guwahati seat for more than two consecutive terms.
It is the only constituency in the third phase where the BJP has fielded its own candidate.
However, the ruling party denied re-nomination to Bijoya Chakravarty and instead gave candidature to Queen Oja. The Congress has also fielded a �new face� in Bobbeeta Sharma.
As such, Guwahati is also the only constituency of Assam where both the major parties have fielded women candidates in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections.
The Congress will this time hope to be the recipient of the votes that went to the AIUDF in 2014, especially among the minority voters of the Boko Legislative Assembly segment. On the other hand, the BJP will expect to secure the AGP�s traditional vote bank in the constituency.
Of the 17 candidates in fray from Guwahati, the main contest is likely to be between BJP�s Oja and Congress� Sharma. However, Independent candidates Upamanyu Hazarika and Junmoni Devi Khaund, both contesting the polls on an anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Bill plank, could garner some good number of votes.
BJP will be the beneficiary of any such division of the anti-CAB votes between the Congress and the two Independent candidates.
Meanwhile, in 2014, AIUDF�s Sirajuddin Ajmal had defeated his nearest rival and BJP nominee Chandra Mohan Patowary by a margin of over 42,000 votes in Barpeta.
Congress had then secured over 2.77 lakh votes in the constituency, while the AGP had polled over 73,000 votes.
AIUDF has this time given candidature to Rafiqul Islam. AGP�s Kumar Deepak Das is in the fray as the common candidate of the ruling alliance, while Congress has fielded Abdul Khaleque.
Minority voters play a major role in the constituency and Barpeta could witness polarization on religious lines during polling.
If the minority votes get divided between the Congress and the AIUDF, it will help the AGP candidate. Under such circumstances, the minorities may resort to �tactical voting� to ensure the defeat of the NDA.
However, there is a big question mark about the ability, and even willingness, of the BJP to transfer its vote base to the AGP.
The constituency is expected to witness a three-cornered contest between the AIUDF, the AGP and the Congress, among a field of 13 candidates.
Similarly, another triangular contest is likely in Dhubri, where the main contenders are expected to be Badruddin Ajmal of the AIUDF, Abu Taher Bepari of the Congress and Zabed Islam of the AGP. A total of 15 candidates are contesting from the seat.
Ajmal has been the MP from Dhubri since 2009, having won the minority dominated constituency in two consecutive Lok Sabha elections.
In 2014, Ajmal had defeated his nearest rival and Congress nominee Wazid Ali Choudhury by a margin of over 2.29 lakh votes.
During those elections, the BJP had polled over 2.98 lakh votes in Dhubri. On the other hand, the AGP had managed to secure less than 10,000 votes.
Despite this figure, the ruling alliance has allotted the seat to the AGP this time.
Ajmal faces a tougher battle now in comparison to the last two Lok Sabha polls. AIUDF has witnessed some erosion in its traditional support base among the minority community voters, as exemplified during last year�s panchayat elections.
Congress is the likely beneficiary of any loss of support among minority voters by the AIUDF.
It will be interesting to watch if the BJP�s supporters, comprising the electorate mainly belonging to the majority community, will transfer their votes to the AGP. Besides, the regional party will also seek to attract some sections of the minority electorate.
However, there is likelihood that even a split of the minority community votes between the Congress and the AIUDF may not be enough to help the AGP in Dhubri.
In Kokrajhar constituency in 2014 elections, Independent candidate Naba Kumar Sarania had won from the seat by defeating his nearest rival and Independent contestant Urkhao Gwra Brahma by a margin of over 3.55 lakh votes.
The BPF candidate was pushed to the third position, managing to secure just over 2.43 lakh votes.
Sarania�s victory was on account of consolidation of the non-Bodo electorate. However, many of the student and non-political outfits which had backed Sarania in 2014 are not supporting him this time.
In addition, the AIUDF is supporting the UPPL in the constituency. Urkhao Gwra Brahma is contesting the polls on the UPPL ticket this time and AIUDF�s support could help him secure a significant number of votes of the minority community.
The Bodo community vote is likely to get split between the UPPL and the BPF. The BPF has nominated State Minister Pramila Rani Brahma as its candidate from the constituency.
It will be worthwhile to see if the traditional BJP supporters, among the Assamese and Bengali Hindu electorate, cast their vote for the BPF.
With a total of nine candidates in the fray from the constituency, Kokrajhar is likely to witness a three-cornered contest between sitting MP Sarania, UPPL�s Urkhao Gwra Brahma and BPF�s Pramila Rani Brahma. Congress nominee Sabda Ram Rabha is also expected to do well at some pockets across the constituency.