A high-octane electoral campaign for the second phase of Assam assembly polls, spearheaded by an array of national and state leaders, came to an end on Tuesday evening.
The second phase of state elections will decide the fate of 345 candidates in 39 seats going to polls on April one.
The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) issue was at the forefront of the campaign, with the BJP, which had maintained a studied silence on it in the run up to the first phase of voting, raising it in the Barak Valley this time as a carrot to the predominantly Hindu Bengali population, some of whom have their roots in Bangladesh.
While releasing the party manifesto for the Assam polls, BJP president J P Nadda had made a reference to the CAA, mentioning that it would be implemented in time.
Union Home Minister and BJP leader Amit Shah, in his election rallies at Patharkandi and Silchar, mentioned the controversial legislation, for the first time, assuring that citizenship rights will be given to refugees, while aserting at the same time that the BJP will not allow infiltrators to enter the state.
The BJP was, particularly, strident in its attack on AIUDF chief Badruddin Ajmal accusing him of encouraging illegal infiltration, leading to encroachments and "land and love jihad" which the party has promised to tackle.
Besides claims of development initatives taken for Assam by the BJP's 'double-engine' governments both at the Centre and the state, the party has also attacked the Congress for aligning with the AIUDF and allegedly encouraging infiltration for its "vested interest of creating a votE-bank".
After the announcement of poll dates in February end, Prime Minister Narendra Modi began his campaign from Karimganj in Barak Valley. The Barak Valley has 15 seats in the 126-member state assembly. Modi also held a rally at Sipajhar from where former Asam Sahitya Sabha president Paramanda Rajbongshi is contesting as the BJP candidate.
BJP president J P Nadda had sounded the party's poll bugle from Silchar in Barak Valley, nearly two months before the Election Commission of India had announced the schedule for the state elections in the northeastern state.
Both Modi and Nadda highlighted that the people of Barak Valley had sent party candidates to the assembly much before the saffron party made significant inroads in Assam.
All the 39 constituencies, spread over 13 districts of the Barak Valley, three hill districts, and parts of central and lower Assam, witnessed last minute canvassing by candidates and their supporters.
Among the prominent BJP leaders who campaigned for candidates in the second phase are central ministers Amit Shah, Nitin Gadkari, Narendra Tomar, Jitendra Singh, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan among others.
The BJP, Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and the United People's Party Liberal (UPPL) are alliance partners. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi who was scheduled to address election rallies at Haflong and Bokajan during the day and interact with women at Silchar was unable to reach due to inclement weather. However, communicating with voters through video message, he said, the party-led Grand Alliance will implement its poll promise of 'five guarantees'.
The 'five guarantees' include 'nullifying' the CAA in the state, providing five lakh government jobs to youths in five years, 200 units of free electricity, raising the daily- wage of tea garden workers from the current Rs 193 to Rs 365 and Rs 2,000 per month to homemakers. The prominent personalities to canvass for candidates of the Grand Alliance, comprising the Congress, AIUDF, the Bodoland Peoples' Front (BPF), the CPI(M), CPI, CPI(ML-L), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Anchalika Gana Morcha (AGM) included Rajya Sabha MPs Mallikaarjun Kharge, Dr Nasir Hussain and Dr Akhilesh Prasad Singh, Chhatisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel.
Former chief ministers of Madhya Pradesh Kamal Nath and Maharashtra's Ashok Chavan, AICC leader Randeep Singh Surjewala, RJD's Tejashwi Yadav, AIUDF chief Badruddin Ajmal and CPI's Kanhaiya Kumar had also campaigned for the Grand Alliance candidates.
At the state level, the BJP's campaign trail was led by Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, state unit president Ranjeet Kumar Dass, NEDA convenor Himanta Biswa, who has so far addressed the maximum number of election rallies, and several ministers of the outgoing assembly. For the Congress, state unit president Ripun Bora, Lok Sabha MPs Pradyut Bordoloi, Gaurav Gogoi and Abdul Khaleque led the campaign along with AICC in-charge of Assam Jitendra Singh.
While campaigning, the AIUDF highlighted the CAA and promised that it will not be implemented in Assam, besides assuring voters that the BJP's alleged polarisation tactics will not be allowed to succeed.
With the Holi festival falling during the campaign period and Assam's most important festival, 'Rongali Bihu', barely a fortnight away, the timing helped the contestants to reach out to voters with many smearing supporters with colours, dancing to the tune of Bihu songs and campaign songs of political parties.
Among prominent candidates in the fray are ministers Parimal Suklabaidya (Dholai), Pijush Hazarika (Jagiroad), Bhabesh Kalita (Rangiya), Pijush Hazarika (Jagiroad), Sum Ronghang (Diphu), and Rihon Daimary (Udalguri), besides Deputy Speaker Aminul Haque Laskar (Sonai), and Rajya Sabha MP Biswajit Daimary (Panery).
Former Congress minister Gautam Roy is contesting on a BJP ticket from Katigora while his son Rahul Roy and daughter-in-law Daisy Roy are contesting as independents from Udharbond and Algapur respectively. Other candidates in the fray are former Congress minister Siddeque Ahmed (Karimganj South), sitting MLA Kamalakhya Dey Purkayastha (Karimganj North), sitting AIUDF MLAs Suzamuddin Laskar (Katlicherra) and Nizamuddin Choudhury (Algapur). AIUDF chief Badruddin Ajmal's brother Sirajuddin Ajmal, a former MP and MLA, is also contesting in the second phase from Jamunamukh while former Congress spokesperson Durga Das Boro is contesting as a BPF candidate from Kalaigaon. The ruling BJP is contesting in 34 seats and its allies, the AGP in six and the UPPL in three, with friendly contests in four constituencies-two each with the AGP and the UPPL.
The Congress is contesting in 27, its partners the AIUDF in eight and BPF in four.
The newly formed Assam Jatiya Parishad is contesting in 17 seats while 174 independents are also in the fray. A total electorate of 73,44,631, including 37,34,537 males, 36,09,959 females and 135 of the third gender, are eligible to exercise their franchise in 10,592 polling stations in the second phase.Follow Moneycontrol’s full coverage of the 2021 Assembly elections.