UPDATED: March 25, 2021 16:19 IST
The first phase of elections in Assam will see 47 seats of the total 126 going to polls on March 27. As many as 37 incumbent MLAs are re-contesting this time, including 24 from the BJP, 6 each from Congress and AGP, and one from AIUDF.
Prior to the 2016 elections, Upper Assam was considered a Congress stronghold. The party had won 38 seats here in 2011 and 27 seats in 2006, with a vote share of 46 per cent and 39 per cent respectively.
Margin of victory
In 2016, there were 10 such seats where the victory margin was less than 5,000 votes. There were 9 such seats in 2011 and 23 in 2006. The victory margin was just 542 votes in Sibsagar last time around. Constituencies such as Amguri, Lakhimpur, Doom Dooma, and Thowra have also been witnessing tight contests in recent elections.
The margin of victory, on the other hand, was more than 20,000 votes in 18 constituencies. The BJP came out on top in 12 such seats, while the AGP won 3. The rest went to Congress, AIUDF, and an Independent candidate.
Lack of women candidates
According to Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) data, only 25 women candidates are in the fray in the first phase-out of a total of 264 candidates. The Congress has fielded six women candidates, BJP three and AGP only one. The trend has been similar to past elections.
Interestingly, the Golaghat assembly constituency has been electing Ajanta Neog, formerly with the Congress, since 2001. She was expelled from the Congress late last year and is now contesting as a BJP candidate. There are 3 constituencies Sibsagar, Batadrova, and Teok where the candidates of all major political parties are women.
A majority of the candidates (59 per cent) contesting the elections in Phase 1 are in the age group of 41 to 60 years as per ADR data. This trend too is similar to previous elections. Mathew Topno, 25, is the youngest candidate in this phase. He is contesting as an Independent from Rangapara constituency. On the other hand, former minister Premadhar Bora, 85, is the oldest candidate and he is contesting from Bihpuria as an Independent.
In 2016, there were five constituencies among the 47 where NOTA polled more votes than the victory margin. These were Sootea (BJP), Sarupathar (Congress), Thowra (BJP), Sibsagar (Congress), and Doom Dooma (Congress). Overall NOTA had pocketed 1.5 per cent of the total votes polled.
Amguri from Sivasagar district is a unique assembly constituency as no political party has been able to win the seat for two consecutive terms since 1985. In 2016, it was Prodip Hazarika from AGP who won the seat with a narrow margin of only 1,620 votes defeating Angkita Dutta of the Congress.
Money and muscle power
The number of crorepatis contesting in Phase 1 has increased as compared to 2016. There are 101 crorepati candidates this time, up from 83 in 2016, according to ADR data. The average asset per candidate, however, has marginally declined from Rs 2 crore in 2016 to Rs 1.8 crore in 2021. As far as criminal profiling is concerned, 41 candidates have declared criminal cases against them as against 17 in the 2016 assembly election.
Seats to watch out for
Some of the key seats to watch out for in Phase 1 are Majuli from where Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal is contesting; Gohpur from where Assam Congress president Ripun Bora is contesting; and Sibsagar from where jailed peasants’ rights activist and president of newly formed Raijor Dal Akhil Gogoi is contesting. In former chief minister Tarun Gogoi’s seat Titabar, the Congress has fielded a new face Bhaskar Jyoti Baruah. In Bokakhat, AGP president Atul Bora is a candidate.