GUWAHATI, March 29: Whether developmental issues will fetch the votes or political equations will ultimately be a winning factor, is a big question in the 54-Gauhati West Legislative Assembly Constituency (LAC) that will go to polls on April 6 in the third and final phase of the State Assembly elections.
Comprising urban areas of Kamrup Metro district, city outskirts and rural localities along the Assam-Meghalaya border, the 54-Gauhati West LAC has a total electorate of 2,96,928. Of them 1,46,540 are male voters, 1,50,380 female and eight are transgender voters.
Dominated by Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) strongman Ramendra Narayan Kalita, Gauhati West LAC is likely to witness a straight fight between five-time MLA Kalita and Congress’ Mira Borthakur Goswami, a strong, vocal woman leader, albeit a greenhorn in the Congress, who joined the party in January 2021.
Assam Jatiya Parishad’s Runa Laila and Raijor Dal’s Dhananjay Kalita are among the 15 candidates in the fray in this constituency this time.
Ramen Kalita was elected as an MLA from the constituency in 1985 (Independent), 1991 (Natun Asom Gana Parishad) and in 1996, 2006 and 2016 as an AGP candidate. For the last five terms, the AGP and Congress have been winning the seat alternatively. In 2001 and 2011, Hemanta Talukdar of the Congress was elected as MLA from this constituency.
Confident of wresting the seat once more as an NDA candidate, Kalita feels that developmental projects taken up by him on the road, drainage and infrastructure fronts would make people vote for him.
However, his candidature from Gauhati West faced protests from the grassroots workers of alliance partner BJP, who were against giving up the seat to the AGP this time. “BJP’s organisational might helped Kalita win the seat in 2016. We had a verbal assurance that in 2021 we would have a BJP candidate here,” a party insider said expressing displeasure.
On the other hand, the Congress’ promptness in giving the ticket to erstwhile BJP spokesperson Mira Borthakur has also ruffled quite a few feathers in the grand old party, making the in-house political equations rather complex for both the candidates that might play a role in voter mobilisation.
The constituency has a mixed population with considerable presence of Bengali, Bodo, Rabha and minority votes. In the last Assembly election in 2016, Kalita got 1,32,184 votes and recorded a victory margin of almost 90 thousand votes over Congress’ Dr Juri Sarma Bordoloi.
“The winning margin will go above one lakh this time,” Kalita told The Assam Tribune. “Specially, the road construction work in both Kamrup Metro and rural parts of the constituency has been completed along with drainage. The piped water supply project is also nearing completion. Mini stadiums are coming up at Lokhra and Azara. Main roads in Lokhra, Gorhchuk (upto airport) and Maligaon areas have been completed. Timely sanction of money for developmental works and strict supervision are some points people will consider while voting,” he said. He also affirmed his active role in raising the constituency’s problems in the Assembly.
Mira Borthakur Goswami, on the other hand, has laid emphasis on a greater mass connect with a promise to take her office to people’s doorsteps through a mobile van, if voted to power. Releasing her manifesto for the constituency, she promised better roads and expediting the JICA-funded water supply project, protection of the water bodies of the area, among other things. She also targeted the ‘outdated’ vision of the AGP leader.
Potable water supply, conservation of water bodies, effective waste management etc., have emerged as the biggest issues of the area. Also, a large number of voters feel that despite having a lot of scope, the constituency, closest to the city capital, is not developed the way it should have been.
Minati Choudhury, a prominent social worker and resident of Bharalumukh said that the constituency lacks the vibrancy and vision it deserves.
“When water, sanitation and other basic facilities are inadequate, other smart city traits are a far-fetched dream. It’s true that some road construction projects have been taken up, but the area deserves much more attention and dedication from its public representative. Some distinct plans for both urban and suburban parts of the constituency are urgently needed,” she said.
“During the lockdown, we the residents of Pragjyotishnagar, Pub Nizarapur and Navoday Nagar were reeling under knee-deep water from June to August last year and our MLA was nowhere to be seen. Even the road in our area has been constructed by the local people with their own money,” said Chayanika Devi, a primary schoolteacher.
Rahul Amin, a technical assistant at the Assam Engineering College however feels that road construction has gained pace in his area Garigaon, Vidyanagar. “Some road repair works in parts of West Guwahati also helped in easing the traffic problem,” he said.
Tarun Kumar of Sundarbori Namghar Path, however, said that people are not happy with the developmental works taken up in the area. Sundarbori crematorium, which also has a kabarsthan adjacent to it, remains submerged under water during the monsoons. Performing the last rites of the dead is a major problem in the rainy season here, Kumar said. He added that the crematorium was also about to lose a part of its area because of a rail line doubling project from New Bongaigaon to Guwahati via Goalpara.