GUWAHATI, April 19 - With campaigning for the Guwahati constituency at its peak, both the ruling BJP and the principal opposition Congress are confident of their prospects in the seat.
Guwahati has the highest number of voters (21,78,617) among all the 14 Lok Sabha seats of Assam. It is also the most �urbanised� parliamentary constituency of the State.
Of the total voters, 11,00,746 are male, 10,77,793 are female and 78 belong to the �third gender�.
There are 17 candidates in the fray from Guwahati this time. They are Queen Oja (BJP), Bobbeeta Sharma (Congress), Manoj Sharma (Trinamool Congress), Avijit Chakraborty (Bharatiya Gana Parishad), Sadek Ali (Republican Party of India - Athawale), Pankaj Das (Swarna Bharat Party), Partha Pratim Baruah (Voters Party International), Mamoni Sarma (Purvanchal Janata Party - Secular), Rajib Kakati (Hindusthan Nirman Dal), Ratul Kumar Choudhury (Samajwadi Party), Rubi Neog (National Republican Congress), Alimuddin Ahmed (Independent), Upamanyu Hazarika (Independent), Utpal Borgohain (Independent), Junmoni Devi Khaund (Independent), Faruk Ahmed Bhuyan (Independent) and Shankha Sinha (Independent).
In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, BJP�s Bijoya Chakravarty had defeated her nearest rival Manash Borah of Congress by over 3.15 lakh votes. The AIUDF had polled over 1.37 lakh votes, while the AGP had secured over 86,000 votes.
No single party has ever won from the Guwahati seat for more than two consecutive terms. In recent years, BJP and Congress have emerged as the dominant players in the constituency.
The BJP this time denied re-nomination to Chakravarty, who had won the last two parliamentary polls as well as in 1999. The Congress has also fielded a �new face� in Bobbeeta Sharma.
Guwahati is also the only constituency of Assam where both the major parties have fielded woman candidates in the ongoing LS elections.
Oja�s priorities are provision of safe drinking water to the citizens, taking steps to curb pollution, addressing infrastructure bottlenecks, improving road conditions and ensuring security of the people.
�I believe water is the topmost priority. And safe drinking water is not only an issue for residents of Guwahati but also of all other places in the constituency. Besides, steps are necessary to curb all forms of pollution. All LACs within Guwahati Lok Sabha constituency also have their own problems. Issues like development of roads and infrastructure, educational facilities, security of citizens among other things, need constant attention,� she said.
Oja said if elected she would work towards ensuring smooth implementation of Central schemes in the constituency.
She claimed the people of the constituency want to see Narendra Modi re-elected as Prime Minister. �People are with us. The voters want to see Modi as Prime Minister for another term. Alliance with AGP and other parties has also been a positive factor for us,� Oja said.
Asked by how much margin she expects to win, Oja said, �As a candidate it would not be appropriate for me to make such a comment. But with every passing day we are receiving more and more support from the people.�
Congress nominee Sharma said employment generation, addressing communication bottlenecks, provision of safe drinking water and better educational facilities are her priorities.
�Generally speaking, there is the issue of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, which we are going to oppose tooth and nail. Secondly, unemployment is an issue which affects Guwahati constituency as well. We always talk about the problems but we rarely bother to try and find the solutions. Contrary to what it had promised, BJP government failed to generate employment. In our manifesto we have outlined certain steps which we are going to take, including filling up vacancies in government departments, providing skills, and helping generate self-employment,� she said.
Sharma said all the LAC segments under Guwahati Lok Sabha seat have certain unique features. �We need to boost economic activities at the local level taking into account the local features of each area so that employment can be generated,� she said.
She added that there is potential to develop cottage industries based on handicraft and other local products in places like Hajo, Chaygaon and Boko.
�There are many beautiful locations in these places which can be developed as tourist spots and as centres for eco-tourism and cultural tourism. I will focus on that. We need sustainable development. For example, Boko produces best quality vegetables and fruits like pineapple. Many industries came up during the Congress government due to the North East Industrial & Investment Promotion Policy (NEIIPP). But the process received a setback following the NDA government�s decision to scrap the NEIIPP,� Sharma said.
Terming communication a big problem, especially in interior and remote places, Sharma said that would be a priority area if she gets elected.
�Guwahati city faces acute scarcity of safe drinking water. Many projects started during our government�s time have remained incomplete after the BJP regime came to power. People are suffering because of it. There is a need for accountability. We need a solution to the drinking water problem.� Improving facilities in educational institutions is another priority for her.
Sharma exuded confidence about winning. �I would not like to give a figure (regarding the victory margin), but I must say we have got very good response from the people,� she said.
There are 2,592 polling stations in the constituency, the highest among the 14 parliamentary seats of Assam.
The Guwahati seat comprises 10 LAC segments � Dudhnoi (1,95,995 electors), Boko (2,16,263), Chaygaon (1,77,245), Palasbari (1,49,068), Hajo (1,69,489), Jalukbari (1,94,671), Dispur (3,85,656), Guwahati East (2,27,668), Guwahati West (2,78,223) and Barkhetri (1,84,339).
Female voters outnumber their male counterparts in four of the LAC segments � Dudhnoi, Jalukbari, Guwahati East and Guwahati West.
In the 2016 Assembly elections, BJP had won from seven (Dudhnoi, Palasbari, Hajo, Jalukbari, Dispur, Guwahati East and Barkhetri) out of the 10 LAC segments. BJP�s alliance partner AGP had won from Guwahati West, while Congress had secured the Chaygaon and Boko seats.
This time BJP has an alliance with AGP, BPF and Rabha Hasong Joutha Sangram Samiti, which has considerable influence in Dudhnoi, as well as with two other local parties.
Besides the Assamese upper caste and OBC electorate, the Guwahati constituency has a significant number of voters from the minority community, Bengali Hindus, Hindi-speaking voters, and tribal communities like the Bodos, Rabhas and Karbis.
With the AIUDF not fighting from Guwahati, the Congress will this time hope to get the votes that went to the Badruddin Ajmal-led party in 2014. On the other hand, BJP will expect to secure the AGP�s traditional vote bank in the constituency.
While the main contest is likely to be between Oja and Sharma, independent candidates Upamanyu Hazarika and Junmoni Devi Khaund, both contesting on an anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Bill plank, could garner a good number of votes.
In case there is a substantial division of anti-CAB votes between the Congress and the two independent candidates, the main beneficiary will be the BJP.