Touted as a close battle between the incumbent BJP-led alliance and the Mahajot, the Assam Assembly election is being conducted in three phases- on March 27, April 1, and April 6. There are nearly 264 candidates including 23 women in the fray for the 47 constituencies going to the polls on Saturday. In the first phase, allies BJP and AGP are fielding candidates in 39 and 10 seats respectively with the two parties expected to have a friendly contest in Lakhimpur and Naharkatiya constituencies.
While Congress is contesting 43 seats, AIUDF, CPI (ML-L), RJD and AGM are in contention in one constituency each. The ruling tie-up has made a range of promises including correction of the NRC, implementation of the Bodoland Territorial Region Accord and laws to end 'Love Jihad' and 'Land Jihad'. On the other hand, Congress has laid emphasis on its 5 guarantees- non-implementation of the CAA, free electricity, assistance to homemakers, increase in daily wage of tea workers and generation of 5 lakh jobs.
A constituency reserved under the ST category, Majuli will witness incumbent CM Sarbananda Sonowal seeking re-election. It is pertinent to note that both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and ex-Congress president Rahul Gandhi have campaigned in this region. In the 2016 Assembly polls, Sonowal had scored a major upset by defeating Congress' Rajib Lochan Pegu who had won the seat thrice in a row since 2001. The margin of victory was 18,923 votes. It promises to be an interesting fight again with Congress again fielding Pegu while Bhaity Richong of the SUCI (Communist) party and Sishudar Doley of the Assam Jatiya Parishad (AJP) are other key candidates. Some of the key issues in the constituency include the damage caused due to floods and soil erosion.
While this seat is currently is being held by AGP's Utpal Dutta, BJP has fielded Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma's key aide Manab Deka. While Dutta won the 2011 election with a slim margin of 1099 votes, he beat Congress candidate Joy Prakash in 2016 by garnering 33.88% of the vote share. While Deka is making his poll debut this time, Congress has re-nominated Prakash from this seat. However, Dutta's decision to contest on an AGP ticket again has given a new dimension to this election as it is unclear as to whether BJP or Congress will gain more.
This is the first election in a long time when one of Assam's stalwart politicians Tarun Gogoi is not in the poll fray. Having represented Titabar for 4 straight terms since 2001, the ex-CM passed away in November 2020 owing to post COVID-19 complications. In the previous election, he had defeated BJP's Kamakhya Prasad Tasa by over 17,000 votes. While there was speculation that his son and Kaliabor Lok Sabha MP Gaurav Gogoi would contest in his place, Congress has given the ticket to Bhaskar Jyoti Baruah. On the other hand, a resurgent BJP has fielded Hemanta Kalita who won from this constituency in 1996. Sailendra Kumar Hazarika of the AJP is the other prominent challenger.
In the 2016 Assembly polls, former Speaker and Congress leader Pranab Kumar Gogoi won the Sibsagar seat by a very narrow margin. The runner-up Surabhi Rajkonwar has again been given a ticket by BJP. As Gogoi passed away in February 2020, Congress has nominated Subhramitra Gogoi for this seat. They face a formidable challenger in the form of incarcerated activist and Raijor Dal president Akhil Gogoi. He was arrested by the NIA in December 2019 for his alleged role in violence during the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act. However, he has sent mixed signals with his recent appeal urging people to vote for the strongest non-BJP candidate in each constituency.
Falling under the Tezpur Lok Sabha segment, Gohpur is a part of the Biswanath district. The result in this constituency assumes great significance as Assam Congress president Ripun Bora is contesting from here. Bora made a political comeback after being discharged in the Daniel Topno murder case in 2014 by bagging a Rajya Sabha ticket two years later. While his wife Monica Bora won this seat in 2011, she lost to BJP's Utpal Borah in the previous Assembly polls by 28,935 votes. This time also, BJP has reposed faith in Borah retaining Gohpur.
Jorhat is perceived as another prestigious seat for BJP as Assam Assembly Speaker Hitendra Nath Goswami is seeking re-election from here. In the 2016 election, Goswami had trounced Rana Goswami of Congress by a margin of more than 13,000 votes. This seat falls under the Jorhat district. Saturday promises to be yet another direct contest between Hirendra Goswami and Congress' Rana Goswami. Nirod Changkakoti of the AJP is another important candidate in the poll fray.
This constituency falls under the Jorhat Lok Sabha segment and is a part of the Sivasagar district. The Congress party won this seat in every election except 1988 and 2006. Congress Legislature Party leader Debabrata Saikia had won against BJP’s Prohlad Gowala by garnering 53.77% of the vote in the previous election. Similarly, he also beat his nearest opponent Drupad Borgohain of the CPI by a margin of over 43,000 votes in the 2011 election. On this occasion too, Congress has fielded Saikia while BJP has nominated Mayur Borgohain.
A traditional stronghold of Congress, Bokakhat was wrested by BJP's ally Asom Gana Parishad. AGP president and state Agriculture Minister Atul Bora created history in the 2016 Assembly polls by becoming the first non-Congress candidate to win from this constituency. He has served as the founder-chairman of the North-East Students' Coordination Committee and the AASU chief in the past. While Congress' Arun Phukan was his contender in the last election, NCP's Mridul Saikia and AJP's Reba Gogoi are the main opposition candidates on this occasion. In the recent past, AGP has faced a lot of flak for persisting with the BJP-led ruling alliance despite the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act.