Assam, Tripura Kick Off Polls; Gogoi, CPI-M Deny 'Modi Wave'
Thousands of people Monday voted in parts of Assam and Tripura, marking the start of India's staggered parliamentary elections. Chief Ministers Tarun Gogoi and Manik Sarkar asserted there was no "Modi wave" in their states.
Officials reported brisk polling in five of the 14 Lok Sabha constituencies in Congress-ruled Assam and one of the two in Marxist-ruled Tripura where the election was held. Voting for only these six Lok Sabha seats, out of a total 543 in the country, was held Monday.
Over 63 percent of voters cast their ballot till 3 p.m. Monday in Assam, the state's chief electoral officer said. An estimated 6.4 million people were eligible to vote for the five seats.
As balloting began at 7 a.m., people queued up at polling stations in Tezpur, Jorhat, Kaliabor, Dibrugarh and Lakhimpur. Polling was briefly delayed in a few of the 8,588 booths due to technical snags in the electronic voting machines (EVMs).
A total of 51 candidates are in the fray in Assam's first phase of polling. Three constituencies will go to the polls April 12 and the remaining six April 24.
Thirteen candidates each are contesting in Kaliabor and Lakhimpur, 10 in Jorhat, nine in Tezpur and six in Dibrugarh.
Prominent candidates whose electoral fate will be decided Monday include the chief minister's son Gourav Gogoi, outgoing Congress MP Bijoy Krishna Handique, BJP state president Sarbananda Sonowal, and union ministers Ranee Narah and Paban Singh Ghatowar.
In Tripura, around 83 percent of the electorate cast their votes till 5 p.m. Monday in Tripura West constituency, as polling was held for one of the two seats in the Left-ruled state, an official said.
"Long queues of people were seen in most of the 1,605 polling stations as voting began at 7 a.m. Clear sky with excellent weather encouraged voters to come to the polling booths early," Tripura Chief Electoral Officer Ashutosh Jindal told IANS.
Here too, voting was delayed for a while in some polling booths due to technical snags in the EVMs but engineers either replaced or rectified the machines, he said.
Polling in the tribal reserved Tripura East constituency will be held April 12.
Some 1.2 million voters were eligible to vote Monday to pick a Lok Sabha member from among 13 candidates. Almost all of them are first-time contenders.
The main battle is between the CPI-M's Sankar Prasad Datta and Arunoday Saha of the Congress. BJP state president Sudhindra Chandra Dasgupta and Trinamool Congress' state chief Ratan Chakraborty are also in the race.
In Agartala, Chief Minister Manik Sarkar said there was no "Modi wave" in India, referring to the BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.
"Where is the Modi wave? There is no Modi wave not only in Tripura but also in the entire country. The corporate media has created this so-called wave," Sarkar said after voting in Agartala.
Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi spoke on similar lines in Jorhat after casting his vote: "Modi magic will not work here. It is Tarun Gogoi's magic that will work here."
He said the Congress would win all five seats for which votes were cast Monday. He told the media: "We earlier had problems like insurgency and lack of development (in Assam). The performance of my government is better than Gujarat's in many aspects."
In Assam, polling was peaceful in all the five constituencies, even as the day coincided with the 'Raising Day' of insurgent outfit United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA).
Although there were no direct threats by the militants this time, police and security forces were deployed in strength to ensure smooth polling.