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State goes to first phase of polls today

By Staff Reporter

GUWAHATI, April 3 � The State goes to the first phase of the Assembly polls tomorrow which will determine the fate of 485 candidates in 62 constituencies.

The second phase of the polls is scheduled for April 11 covering 64 constituencies.

Polling will begin at 7 am and the voters will be able to exercise their right to franchise till 3 pm.

Campaigning for the first phase ended on Friday which saw a number of high-profile leaders of the Congress and the BJP � including several Bollywood stars � visiting the State.

With the threat of the banned ULFA hardliners looming large over the polls, security has been beefed up in and around all the polling stations. The raising day of the ULFA falls on April 7 � something that adds to the threat perception during the polls.

�There is adequate security in all the polling stations as we are leaving nothing to chance,� a senior police official said.

About 450 companies of Central paramilitary security forces have been engaged to man the first phase of the polls.

A total of 2,093 polling stations have been identified as hyper-sensitive and another 2,985 as sensitive for the first phase of the polls.

For the first phase, the number of voters stands at 85,09,010 of which 43,91,889 are male voters and 41,17,121 female.

A total of 1,516 micro observers besides 25 general observers and 21 expenditure observers have been engaged for the first phase of the polls.

PTI adds: A triangular contest among ruling Congress, BJP and AGP was likely in most constituencies which include 15 in the Barak Valley, five in the two hill districts of Karbi Anglong and North Cachar Hills, eight in Sonitpur and the remaining 34 in upper Assam districts of Dhemaji, Golaghat, Sivasagar, Dibrugarh, Tinsukia, Lakhimpur and Jorhat.

Campaigning for the first phase, though initially slow-paced with the major parties beset with dissidence and dissatisfaction over ticket allotment, became high voltage during the past one week with star campaigners of the various parties descending on the state to woo the electorate.

The ruling Congress though burdened with an anti-incumbency factor is expecting to enter the Assembly for the third consecutive term with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee among others batting for Chief Minister Gogoi by highlighting his achievements during the last 10 years.

The BJP, in particular, put in an aggressive campaign with almost all senior national leaders including former deputy prime minister L K Advani, party president Nitin Gadkari, leaders of Opposition in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, former party chief M Venkaiah Naidu, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and Jharkhand Chief Minister Arjun Munda coming to the state.

The AGP�s campaign was muted with party president Chandramohan Patowary and former chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta pitching in for candidates in the party strongholds.

The BJP brought in the glamour quotient with Bollywood stars Hema Malini and Shatrughan Sinha and television star Smriti Irani campaigning in different constituencies while the Congress had only Raj Babbar to canvass for the party.

The Left parties, with CPI and CPI-M contesting 17 seats each in the polls, had senior Politburo members Sitaram Yechury and Brinda Karat campaigning for the candidates.

The issues on which the different parties campaigned were varied with Congress leaders highlighting the development of the state, various schemes introduced during the last 10 years, initiating peace talks with ULFA and utter chaos and economic mismanagement during AGP rule.

BJP and AGP harped mostly on corruption issues, particularly on the multi-crore funds diversion scam in North Cachar Hills, and alleged failure of the Congress to solve the issues of foreigners� influx, flood, erosion and neglect of the weaker sections, particularly the tea tribe community.

Political parties, however, did not make insurgency a major issue in the just-concluded poll campaigning.

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