SOOTEA, April 1 - A tough contest seems to be in the offing between Congress candidate Praneswar Basumatary and BJP candidate Padma Hazarika at Sootea LAC as the election campaign reaches its peak. Besides these two heavyweight candidates, other candidates are also trying to woo the voters.
Six candidates are in the fray for the seat which comes under the Tezpur Election District. The other candidates in the fray are Mahendra Orang (VPI), Khemraj Chetry (CPM), Jyoti Subba and Arun Nath (Ind). The seat was represented by AGP MLA Padma Hazarika for three terms. He first won here in 1996, lost to Praneswar Basumatary contesting on a Congress ticket in 2001, while again winning it in the 2006 and 2011 Assembly elections.
However, common voters of the Assembly segment feel that though the AGP MLA Padma Hazarika won from here thrice, he could not do any notable developmental work despite a huge amount of funds being allotted for the development of the constituency. Misappropriation of funds from different schemes, including IAY houses, is alleged during his regime.
On the contrary, many people feel that Praneswar Basumatary, who was an MLA for only a single term, carried out developmental works in the constituency including developing road communication, electrification in many remote rural areas under the Rajiv Gandhi Rural electrification project, etc.
However, a straight fight between the Congress and BJP candidates is likely for the seat, even though Jyoti Subba, wife of former Tezpur MP and lottery baron Mani Kumar Subba, is contesting as an Independent candidate. CPM candidate Khemraj Chetry may also be able to influence a section of the voters.
The BJP candidate is banking on the joint force of the AGP-BJP alliance, while the Congress is seeking the people�s support mostly on the issues of developmental work and corruption during the regime of the AGP MLA. It seems that though Padma Hazarika hoped that after joining the BJP, his path would be easy, in reality this may not be so. The Congress is presenting an assessment of Hazarika�s performance during his long stint to its advantage. Voters from different communities, which were earlier divided, may unite to return a candidate, who will work for development in the constituency. Moreover, as Bodo student body ABSU has a stronghold among the Bodo voters here, it will play a vital role in this regard following the UPP-Congress alliance, boosting its prospects in the constituency.
The anti-Hazarika stand taken by the Independent candidate, Arun Nath, may also affect the electoral prospects of the BJP in the constituency. Arun Nath was one of the AGP workers who had sought tickets from the BJP after its alliance with the saffron party, but he was denied one. He is now contesting as an Independent.