Guwahati: It is counting day. Verdict will be delivered about the fate of 946 candidates as counting of votes for the 126-member Assam Legislative Assembly 126 seat begins at 8AM, Sunday (May 2).
Elaborate arrangements have been made for the counting across 50 election districts of the state in keeping with COVID protocols as issued by the Election Commission of India.
COUNTING AMID COVID, ECI's STRICT PROTOCOL
The Election Commission has made it clear that no candidates or agents will be allowed inside the counting hall without RAT test or without having 2 doses of COVID vaccination. They will have to produce negative RAT report or vaccination reports within 48 hours of start of counting. RAT test has been made mandatory for candidates, counting agents and counting personnel and media personnel involved in the counting process. Face shields, masks, sanitisers and PPE kits would be provided at every counting hall.
The ECI has banned all victory processions on or after the result day. Not more than two persons have been allowed to accompany the winning candidate to collect the certificate of election from the Returning Officer. A three-tier security arrangement has been put in place in the strong rooms and counting halls.
The number of counting tables in each counting hall has been restricted to 7 tables to maintain social distance.
The Commission said in an official statement that the number of polling stations are 34.71% more than 2016, "It is partly due to provision of 5325 numbers of Auxiliary Polling Stations set up in the current elections. Hence, there will be more EVM machines to be counted this time. Counting rounds will be more because of large number of postal ballots received, counting of VVPAT slips. Due to these factors, counting of votes will take more time compared to earlier elections".
The number of rounds will vary from minimum 10 rounds to 33 rounds for each constituency depending on the number of polling stations and counting tables, the Commission said.
THE KEY FACES
Assam CM Sarbananda Sonowal is contesting from the Majuli seat for the second time. State Finance, Health, Education and PWD Minister and BJP's strongman and mascot in Assam and Northeast, Himanta Biswa Sarma is contesting for the sixth time from the Jalukbari seat.
There are 16 other Assam ministers who are in the race.
Phani Bhushan Choudhury (AGP), Minister for Food and Civil Supplies is fighting for the eighth time. He has won the Bongaigaon seat 7 times in a row.
Chandra Mohan Patowary (BJP), Minister for Transport, Industries and Commerce too is contesting for the eighth time from the Dharmapur constituency. He has won the seat five times (1985, 1991, 1996, 2006 & 2016). He lost twice in 2001 & 2011.
Focus will be on high profile first-timers - RTI activist and jailed Raijor Dal leader Akhil Gogoi contesting from the Sibsagar seat and former AASU general secretary and Asom Jatiya Parishad President Lurinjyoti Gogoi contesting from Naharkatia and Duliajan.
THE POLITICAL LANDSCAPE
While the BJP went to the polls without projecting a CM candidate, the main Opposition in the state, the Congress fought the elections minus one of its tallest leaders, 3-time former Assam CM Tarun Gogoi (who passed away in December 2020) and amid a leadership crisis.
In the run-up to the polls, BJP snapped its ties with ally Bodoland People's Front (BPF) and joined hands with the UPPL, another recently emerged political force from the Bodo heartland. (BJP won the Bodoland Territorial Council polls with UPPL as its ally). BPF had won 12 seats in the 2016 elections and managed to get 3 ministerial berths in the Sarbananda Sonowal led Assam Cabinet.
Congress went down to 26 seats in 2016 from 78 in 2011 marking the end of the grand old party's three consecutive wins and the rule of the hand, and emergence of the saffron party as the lotus finally bloomed in Assam with BJP lapping up 60 seats in 2016 from a meagre 5 seats in 2011.
AIUDF, an ally of the Congress in the Mahajot or Grand Alliance won 13 seats in 2016, down from 18 of 2011.
In 2016, the Assam Gana Parishad (AGP) marginally bettered it performance winning 14 seats (it had won 10 in 2011) and getting 3 plum portfolios in the 2016 Sonowal Cabinet. AGP President Atul Bora became the Minister for Agriculture, Veterinary, Horticulture, Food Processing and Town Planning, Keshab Mahanta got the Water Resources, Science & Technology portfolio and Phani Bhushan Choudhury, another senior AGP leader was made the Food and Civil Supplies Minister.
In 2011, BPF was an ally of the Congress and had won 12 seats. AGP had gone down to 10 seats in 2011 from 24 in 2006.
While the exit polls have given a clear edge to the ruling BJP, it is the counting of real votes that will give the real picture.