Battle for Lok Sabha begins Monday from the northeast
One constituency in Tripura and five in Assam go to polls Monday morning, marking the start of the nine-phase staggered elections to the Lok Sabha.
The six are among 543 constituencies where polling will take place from April 7 to May 12. The ballot count will be held May 16, and the results declared same day.
Voting Monday will be held from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m in the six constituencies in the two states.
The balloting for the remaining seats will be held April 12 (three in Assam and one in Tripura) and April 24 (six in Assam).
The Congress rules in Assam, while Tripura has the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M)) led Left Front in power.
The Bharatiya Janata Party, and the Asom Gana Parishad are among the parties with significant presence in Assam, while the Trinamool Congress of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is trying to get a foothold in both these states. Several other local parties are also present.
An estimated 6.4 million people are eligible to vote Monday to pick representatives to the Lok Sabha from Tezpur, Jorhat, Kaliabor, Dibrugarh and Lakhimpur constituencies in Assam.
According to the Election Commission, a total of 51 candidates are in the fray Monday in Assam, where balloting will be held in 8,588 centres.
Police and paramilitary forces have stepped up security, more so because April 7 coincides with the Raising Day of the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA).
"There is no specific threat for the election but we cannot take chances," said a senior Assam Police official, adding 240 companies of Assam Police and paramilitary forces have been deployed.
Ten candidates are in the fray in Jorhat, nine in Tezpur, 13 each in Kaliabor and Lakhimpur and six candidates in Dibrugarh.
Among the prominent candidates in Assam are lottery baron Mani Kumar Subba (independent), Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi's son Gourav Gogoi, outgoing Congress MP Bijoy Krishna Handique, veteran Communist Drupad Borgohain, BJP state president Sarbananda Sonowal, union Minister of State for Tribal Affairs Ranee Narah, Mamud Imdadul Haque Choudhury of All India United Democratic Front, union minister Paban Singh Ghatowar, Rameswar Teli of the BJP and Anoop Phukan of the AGP.
The West Tripura constituency goes to the polls Monday. Election in the tribal reserved Tripura East constituency will be held April 12.
According to officials, 1.2 million voters are eligible to vote Monday to pick a Lok Sabha member from 13 candidates, including a woman. Almost all the candidates are fresh contenders.
In 2009, the CPI-M's Khagen Das won the seat defeating Congress's Sudip Roy Barman (currently state's opposition leader) by 248,549 votes.
The Left has won from West Tripura 11 times since the first Lok Sabha election of 1952 and the Congress four times. The Congress For Democracy, a breakaway faction of the Congress, secured the seat in 1977.
The ruling CPI-M this time dropped both its sitting MPs - Das and Bajuban Reang (East Tripura), who has won the seat a record seven times since 1980.
This time the main battle in the constituency will be between CPI-M's trade union leader Sankar Prasad Datta and Congress' Arunoday Saha, a former vice chancellor of Tripura University, a central varsity.
BJP state president Sudhindra Chandra Dasgupta, Trinamool's state chief Ratan Chakraborty, Tripura Pragatishil Gramin Congress (TPGC) president Subal Bhowmik and Aam Aadmi Party's Salil Saha, a physician, are the other important aspirants.
Both Chakraborty and Bhowmik, former Congress legislators, left the party last year and formed Tripura unit of the Trinamool and TPGC respectively.
The CPI-M is focusing on the development work it has done in Tripura, while attacking the Congress for poor governance, price rise and corruption in the country.
The opposition is harping on misgovernance, unemployment and rising crimes against women.
Tripura Chief Electoral Officer Ashutosh Jindal said the Border Security Force (BSF) would seal the India-Bangladesh border during the polls.
"Helicopters would be pressed into service and mobile surveillance squads of the security forces would be in force to closely oversee the polling," Jindal told IANS.
He said polling officials have left Sunday for the 1,605 polling stations.
(Posted on 06-04-2014)