GUWAHATI, May 22 - With counting of votes of the Lok Sabha polls to be taken up tomorrow, both the ruling BJP and the principal opposition Congress party today expressed confidence of winning from the prestigious Guwahati constituency.
Guwahati, which has the highest number of electors among all the 14 Lok Sabha seats of Assam and is also the most �urbanised� parliamentary constituency of the State, had gone to the polls on April 23 in the third phase of the elections.
The constituency had recorded a voter turnout of 80.81 per cent. A total of 17,60,511 voters had exercised their franchise in the constituency, out of the total 21,78,617 eligible electors.
There are 17 candidates in fray from Guwahati this time. They are Queen Oja (BJP), Bobbeeta Sharma (Indian National Congress), Manoj Sharma (All India 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 recent years, the BJP and the Congress have emerged as the dominant players in the constituency. This time also the main contest is expected to be between BJP�s Oja and Congress nominee Sharma.
An interesting feature about the Guwahati Lok Sabha seat is that no single party has ever managed to win from the constituency for more than two consecutive terms.
However, on the eve of the counting, BJP nominee Oja is confident that the party will create history by winning from the constituency for a third consecutive term.
�A human being should always be optimistic. I am also optimistic. All our party cadres are optimistic. People have supported us,� Oja told The Assam Tribune.
She said that the development agenda of the NDA government and the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi have been appreciated by the people.
�The Modi government has become synonymous with development. The social welfare schemes of the government have benefited crores of people. This government never discriminated against any person on the basis of caste, creed or religion. There has been zero tolerance against corruption. Prime Minister Modi has now been acknowledged by everyone as a statesman on a global level,� said Oja.
She added, �In addition, the clean image and efficiency of Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, the contribution of our State president Ranjeet Kumar Dass in strengthening the party�s organisation across the State, and the campaigning style and strategy drawn up by NEDA convenor Himanta Biswa Sarma have been assets for us.�
Oja said she is confident of securing leads in eight out of the 10 Legislative Assembly Constituency (LAC) segments under the Guwahati Lok Sabha seat, barring Chaygaon and Boko.
She accused the Congress of trying to polarise the elections. �That is why Congress may gain more votes in Chaygaon and Boko segments where minority voters are present in large numbers. The Congress adopted the politics of polarisation,� Oja said.
Asked about the margin of victory she hopes to achieve, Oja said, �I am not doing any arithmetic right now. I am only praying to God Almighty.�
Congress candidate Sharma, on the other hand, claimed to have got very positive feedback from the ground level.
�Right from the beginning when I started campaigning I received very positive feedback from the people. Keeping in mind the feedback I have got, even after the voting, with people calling me and writing to be through Twitter, Facebook and Whatsapp that I am going to be victorious... considering all the feedback, I feel I am going to win and I am very hopeful,� she said.
Asked about the various exit polls which have predicted a good result for the ruling party, Sharma said, �I do not think the NDA will do well in Assam. Our candidates are much better. If you compare our candidate list with that of the BJP, you will find that our candidates are much more experienced and have solid backgrounds.�
She claimed that voters look for better candidates while going to exercise their franchise. �And Congress has given good candidates. If the people have to choose, they opt for the better candidates who can work for the masses and raise issues in Parliament. Besides, BJP secured all 25 seats in Rajasthan in the 2014 polls. Is it possible that it will get 25 out of 25 in a State again when the Congress came to power there during Assembly elections only six months ago? Similar is the case in states like Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh,� Sharma said.
She alleged that Guwahati has not seen much development during the past ten years when the constituency was represented by a BJP MP. �Is this not the time to bring about a change? I always told the people that I have come to work and based on that, asked for an opportunity to work for the people of the constituency,� said the Congress candidate.
Sharma is also hopeful on account of the high polling percentage. �Huge turnout means people want a change. The rural segments have reported very high turnout. There are segments like Jalukbari, Dispur and Guwahati East where we earlier used to receive less number of votes even when our candidates won from the constituency. But this time we are going to give them (BJP) a very good fight and we hope to get a fair share of votes in these segments also,� she added.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, 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 had then polled over 1.37 lakh votes in the constituency, while the AGP had secured over 86,000 votes. This time the AIUDF did not contest from the seat, while the AGP has an alliance with the BJP.
BJP denied re-nomination to Chakravarty, who had won the last two parliamentary polls as well as in 1999, and instead gave candidature to Oja. The Congress also fielded a �new face� in Sharma. As such, Guwahati is also the only constituency of Assam where both the major parties have fielded woman candidates in these Lok Sabha elections.
The Guwahati seat comprises 10 LAC segments: Dudhnoi, Boko, Chaygaon, Palasbari, Hajo, Jalukbari, Dispur, Guwahati East, Guwahati West and Barkhetri.
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 under Guwahati Lok Sabha seat. BJP�s alliance partner AGP had won from Guwahati West, while Congress had secured the Chaygaon and Boko seats.