The South Salmara district witnessed highest polling at 89.49 percent, followed by Dhubri with 89.20 percent and Bilasipara (87.07 percent), official data showed

Polling passed off largely peacefully in Assam on Tuesday but for sporadic incidents of violence and disturbances as an estimated 82.33 percent of 79.2 lakh electors voted in the third and last phase of Assam Assembly elections.

That figure is likely to rise, Joint Chief Electoral Officer Rahul Chandra Das told PTI.

“As per the information available, the poll percentage has been estimated at 82.33 percent,” he added. Polling percentage in the third round is more than the previous two which saw 79.93 and 80.96 percent turnout respectively.

The South Salmara district witnessed highest polling at 89.49 percent, followed by Dhubri with 89.20 percent and Bilasipara (87.07 percent), official data showed. Lower polling took place at Kamrup Metropolitan, which comprises the Guwahati city, at 74.42 percent, followed by Bajali with 77.51 percent and Baksa (78.22 percent).

Voters wearing masks were seen queuing up outside polling booths with some maintaining distance by standing in marked circles across the 12 districts in lower Assam, before polling opened.

However, most of the voters in rural areas were not observing any COVID-19 protocol and were seen huddling in groups. The voters who did not have masks were provided with one, besides disposable plastic gloves before they were allowed to enter the polling booths.

The first voters at the polling centres were greeted with saplings and the senior citizens with ‘gamochas’ (traditional Assamese scarf). For the convenience of the senior citizens and differently-abled voters, arrangements for wheelchairs and e-rickshaws were made at many of the booths.

The model polling stations have a children’s play zone, seating lounge, selfie zone and muppets. Many of the booths also had seating areas, in rainbow shades, themed on inclusivity and LGBTQ rights. Many polling centres were decorated with recyclable items, having art installations made with bottles and plastic wrappers among others.

Ethnic fabric and handicraft items were on display in many polling centres, besides mannequins wearing tribal attires put up at the selfie zones. The Assamese festival of Bihu, which is just 10 days away, was also a popular theme in several polling booths.

Altogether 337 candidates, including 25 women, contested in 40 constituencies in the third phase. Their fate was in the hands of 79,19,641 electors, including 40,11,539 males, 39,07,963 females and 139 transgenders, in 11,401 polling stations.

EVM malfunctions were reported from several polling centres but voting resumed after the machines were replaced, an election official said without sharing the number of units replaced.

Assam dy Speaker quizzed, 5 policemen suspended

Assam Assembly Deputy Speaker Aminul Haque Laskar has been quizzed twice and five police personnel attached to him have been suspended after they opened fire on public during second phase of polling on 1 April, PTI reported on Tuesday.

At least three people were injured in the firing by Laskar’s bodyguards on 1 April after clashes broke out between supporters of BJP and AIUDF inside the polling station at 463 Madhya Dhanehori LP School of Sonai constituency.

Police sources said Laskar was interrogated twice for several hours during the last 48 hours and his statements have been recorded in front of a magistrate. Sitting MLA Laskar is having a direct fight with Karim Uddin Barbhuiya of the AIUDF on Sonai seat.

On Tuesday, a clash between two groups of public brokeout “over some issues”, forcing the police to resort to lathicharge and firing in the air, an official said.

The incident occurred at the polling station set up at Dighaltari LP School under Golakganj constituency and the situation is under control with voting continuing normallyafter a brief halt, the official said. At the Gutipara booth under the Bilasipara West seat, agroup of people attacked security personnel over distribution of free masks and pelted stones at the polling station,leading to lathicharge by the police to control the situation.

Voting was interrupted there for about half-an-hour after which it continued, as usual, officials said. At a polling booth under Bongaigaon constituency, police resorted to lath icharge when a huge crowd had arrived.

Another polling station under the same constituency witnessed “some commotion” when the presiding officer went to help a differently-abled person in casting his vote. However, the situation was brought under control immediately after police intervened, an election official said.

Police detained at least two persons from the polling boot hat Kamrup Academy Higher Secondary School in Guwahati for allegedly distributing BJP pamphlets carrying minister Siddhartha Bhattacharya’s pictures inside the centre. A total of around 10 persons have been detained from different parts of the constituencies witnessing voting on Tuesday, officials said.

‘Confident BJP will return to power’

Union Minister Jitendra Singh on Tuesday said high voter turnout in Assam during polling reflects pro-incumbency as he exuded confidence that the BJP will return to power in the state for the second consecutive term. With the conclusion of the third and final phase of polling on Tuesday for the Assam Assembly election, the BJP’s victory is sealed for definite, he said. “When the results are declared on 2 May, Assam is going to send out a message loud and clear, which is going to echo across the country,” said Singh, the Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office.

He said that in each of the three phases of polling, the voter turnout was consistently around 80 per cent and this is a “pro-incumbency” vote.  “The BJP will retain Assam for the second consecutive time. Votes cast in the polls are pro-incumbency and will help the BJP only,” the minister said.

Singh recalled that in 2016 too the voting percentage was in the same range but it was against Congress. “The people of Assam not only saw the commitment and sincerity of the BJP’s work but also saw how under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi a revolutionary transformation has happened in Assam which had not happened in the last several decades of Congress rule,” he said. Singh claimed that it going to be noted with glory is that in the last seven years, the state not only underwent a revolutionary transformation as far as development is concerned, but even the psychological barriers were done away with and people of the entire region have completely intermingled and integrated with the rest of India.

“Today, even in the far-off southern and western states of India, the choicest aviation/aircrew or the hotel management industry is manned by youngsters from the northeastern region,” he added.

The newly-floated AJP is contesting on 22 seats, while there are 126 independents in the fray in the final phase of polls, in which the BJP-led alliance is fighting on 37 seats. The Grand Alliance has put up 45 candidates, including friendly contests between Congress and AIUDF on five seats.

A direct contest between nominees of the BJP-led NDA and Congress-headed Grand Alliance is on the cards in 20 constituencies, while there is a triangular fight, including friendly contests, in the remaining seats with the AssamJatiya Parishad (AJP) being considered as the third force.

The fate of 20 sitting MLAs,  eight from the Congress, five from the BJP, three each from the AIUDF and the BPF, andone from the AGP, will be decided in this round. BJP ministers Himanta Biswa Sarma, Chandra Mohan Patowary, Siddhartha Bhattacharya and Phani Bhusan Choudhury were in the fray in this phase. The electoral future of BPF ministers Chandan Brahma and Pramila Rani Brahma along with BJP state chief Ranjeet Kumar Dass was also sealed Tuesday.

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