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The Assam Assembly Elections at a glance

By rediff Features Desk
April 01, 2006 18:21 IST
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On Monday, the first salvo of the five-state election battle will be fired in Assam.

Though the elections are for state legislative assemblies, they are being seen as the first big opportunity for India to react to the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government's performance since May 2004, when it came to power.

Here is a quick look at what's at stake in Assam.

Who are the main players in the election?

Assam has a Congress government, headed by Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi. The Bharatiya Janata Party -- which is contesting 125 seats -- and the Asom Gana Parishad -- which is contesting 100 -- are the two main Opposition parties.

Much to the relief of the Congress, the AGP and the BJP have not joined hands.

In the last elections in 2001, the Congress won 70 seats, while the AGP-BJP combine won 40.

How many seats are being contested? How many voters? What are the statistics?

Number of voters: 17,434,173
Number of polling stations: 18,718 
Total number of contestants: 997
Number of assembly seats: 126

It's a two-phase election, right?

Yes. Sixty-five constituencies vote on Monday, April 3. The other 61 will see elections on April 10. The votes will be counted on May 11.

What are the main issues?

Ending the 27-year-old insurgency in the state tops the agenda for the polls.

The main militant group, the armed and dangerous United Liberation Front of Asom, has as usual washed its hands of the elections. 

But this time, it has toned down its language. Instead of the earlier diktats to the people to strictly stay away from the polls, it has warned political parties 'not to encourage' people to participate in the poll process.

ULFA has formed an 11-member Peoples' Consultative Group, which has held two rounds of talks with the government of India. The third round is expected after the assembly elections.

Bangladeshi infiltration and illegal immigrants are another hot topic, with the BJP harping on it.

The AGP is fighting on the plank of what it calls 'Congress misrule.' Noted Assamese singer-turned politician Bhupen Hazarika has even written a song for the AGP.

Minority issues have also been forced to the front with the newly formed Assam United Democratic Front roping in the Shahi Imam of the Jama Masjid in Delhi to campaign for it.

And, tea garden workers' issues and development in general are also expected to play a role in determining which way Assam swings.

Any star campaigners?

All the parties have pulled out all the stops for Campaign Assam.

The Congress has played its two biggest cards: Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh. The prime minister is a Rajya Sabha member from Assam.

The AGP has flaunted former Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrabu Naidu, Samjwadi Party leader Amar Singh, and former actresses Jaya Bachchan and Jaya Prada.

The BJP has brought in Hindutva posterboy Narendra Modi and Bollywood yesteryears star Hema Malini.

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