GUWAHATI: The Lok Sabha poll in Barpeta HPC (House of People Constituency) is heading for an alluring fight, which people there presume, is set to be a triangular one.
The major contenders in the constituency going to polls during the third phase on April 23 are Kumar Deepak Das (AGP), Abdul Khaleque (Congress) and Rafiqul Islam (AIUDF).
In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the constituency witnessed a triangular fight among the AIUDF, the BJP and the Congress. Even as the situation in that election was similar to what is seen now, one of the major differences in 2014 was that unlike this polls, the BJP and the AGP fought that election on their own. This time around, the BJP and the AGP have allied and the latter fielded its candidate in the constituency. In the 2014 polls, AIUDF candidate Sirajuddin Ajmal won the seat defeating his nearest BJP rival Chandra Mohan Patowary by a margin of 42,341 votes. While Ajmal got 3,94,702 votes, Patowary garnered 3,52,361 votes, Congress’ Ismail Hussain got 2,77,802 votes and AGP’s Phani Bhushan Choudhury received 73,733 votes.
The campaign in the constituency is at its peak. Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal has already visited the constituency many times. The leaders of the Congress and the AIUDF are also not sitting idle. Campaigning for the third phase will conclude at 5 pm on Sunday.
The constituency has 13 candidates in fray. The other ten candidates are – Saniara Parbin of VPI, Matiur Rahman of National Road Map Party of India, Arun Baruah of Purbanchal Janata Party (Secular), Santanu Mukherjee of Bharatiya Gana Parishad, Pranabjyoti Das Rajbongshi of NPP, Independent candidate Arfan Ali, Ashahak Ali Dewan of TMC, Bhadreswar Barman of National Republican Congress, Chitralekha Das of SUCI and Rejaul Karim of Republican Party of India (A).
The constituency has 10 Assembly segments spread over Barpeta, Nalbari and Bongaigaon districts. The legislative Assembly segments in the constituency are – Bongaigaon, Abhoyapuri South, Abhoyapuri North, Patacharkuchi, Barpeta, Jania, Baghbar, Sorukhetri, Chenga and Dharmapur. The constituency has 16,76,854 voters – 8,65,300 males, 8,11,538 females and 16 third gender.
A team of The Sentinel visited the constituency to gauge the voters’ pulses there. Besides the major candidates, the team also interacted with cross sections of people. The clear message was that the majority of the people in the constituency are not happy with the performance of the present Barpeta MP.
When asked on poll issues, AGP candidate Kumar Deepak Das said: “The AGP is a regional party. It’s always with the indigenous and greater Assamese society. In my former stint in the Rajya Sabha, I did raise burning issues of Assam in the Parliament. Since my days as a student, I’ve been with the people of this constituency through thick and thin. If elected, I’ll raise problems afflicting this constituency. There’re local issues like erosion, unemployment, extension of railway network, and industrialization among others. All these problems need to be focused upon. Since ‘xatra nagari’ Barpeta is culturally rich, naturally culture is a thrust area.” Das was also a former Assam minister.
Abdul Khaleque of the Congress said that he would oppose the CAB if introduced in Parliament again. “The ‘D’ voter concept is seen only in Assam. This system has to be done away with. I’ll work for that. I want to project ‘xatra nagari’ Barpeta as a heritage town, besides concentrating on the setting up of a central university and development of road and rail connectivity in this constituency. I’ll also raise all major issues of this constituency in Parliament.” Khaleque is currently Jania MLA.
AIUDF candidate Rafiqul Islam claims that his fight is with the AGP candidate. “The Congress candidate isn’t in the fight. This is because the party in infamous for giving false assurances. I’m seeking support from the majority as well as the minority, the Bodos, the Rajbongshis and all other communities. I hope to get their support. If the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB) is introduced in the Parliament again, I’ll oppose it. Our president Badruddin Ajmal opposed the Bill when it was introduced in the Parliament. The AGP opposed the CAB, but reverted to the BJP fold later. I believe I will win this seat. Besides raising all local issues, I’ll try to do away with the system of ‘D’ voters.”
Talking to The Sentinel team, Anundoram Borooah Academy, Pathsala Rector-cum-Principal Dr Ranjit Deka said: “We feel disheartened when Assam MPs don’t speak in the Parliament. It would’ve been a solace had they worked for the State and their constituencies. Barpeta constituency has many local issues that need to be addressed. The MP, whoever he/she may be, will have to work hard to solve the problems. This apart, this constituency has many places like Barpeta, Pathsala, Nalbari, Bongaigaon etc that have their own signatures in areas like culture, education, business, Xatriya culture and the like. All these need to be explored, apart from laying stress on agriculture, erosion, unemployment, education etc. The MP to be elected should hold meetings with the public to set his priority right.”
Hara Kumar Das, a businessman of Barpeta, said: “We saw vocal MPs from Assam earlier. However, nowadays, there is no such MP from the State. We need a leader who can raise the cause of greater Assam in the Parliament. People should vote for an educated and qualified candidate. And all should come out to exercise their voting right.”
The Barpeta constituency has a demography comprising the Muslims and the Hindus like the mainstream Assamese, the Bodos, the Rajbongshis, the Bengalis and others.
The election is on April 23. Who will have the last laugh will be known only on May 23 when the results would be declared.
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