GUWAHATI: Campaigning for the third and last phase of the Assam assembly elections ended on Sunday.
The fate of 337 candidates, including NEDA convenor and state minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, will be sealed in EVMs in 40 constituencies on April 6.
An array of national leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress's Rahul Gandhi campaigned for their respective alliance candidates.
The seats, spread across 12 districts including three in the Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR), witnessed last- minute canvassing by candidates, including 25 women, before the end of campaigning.
Modi, who had campaigned in all three phases, addressed two rallies at Kokrajhar and Tamulpur, both in BTR, and highlighted the signing of the Bodo Accord and development initiatives of the BJP.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah, another star campaigner for the BJP, addressed a series of election rallies in Lower Assam constituencies.
He was scheduled to address three rallies on the last day of campaigning but had to cut short his visit to Assam and returned to New Delhi following the Maoist attack in Chhattisgarh.
BJP chief J P Nadda, Union ministers Nitin Gadkari, Narendra Tomar, Jitendra Singh, Smriti Irani, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Anurag Thakur, and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan also campaigned for the party.
Rahul Gandhi visited the Kamkhaya Temple and addressed rallies at Chaygaon and Barkhetri seats, while his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was also scheduled to campaign in three constituencies in Lower Assam but had to cancel the plan after coming in contact with a COVID-19 infected person.
Rajya Sabha MPs Mallikarjun Kharge, Dr Nasir Hussain and Dr Akhilesh Prasad Singh, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, his Chhattisgarh counterpart Bhupesh Baghel, former chief ministers of Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, Kamal Nath and Ashok Chavan respectively, and AICC leader Randeep Singh Surjewala campaigned for the 'Grand Alliance' candidates.
'Mahajoth' or 'Grand Alliance' comprises Congress, AIUDF, Bodoland Peoples' Front (BPF), CPI(M), CPI, CPI(ML) Liberation, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Anchalik Gana Morcha (AGM).
AIUDF chief Badruddin Ajmal, the BJP's prime target in this election, carried out hectic campaigning for his party candidates along with those of his alliance partners.
The Assam BJP's campaign trail was led by Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, state unit chief Ranjeet Kumar Dass, NEDA convenor Himanta Biswa Sarma, who has so far addressed the highest number of election rallies, and other ministers of the outgoing assembly.
Sarma was barred by the Election Commission from campaigning for 48 hours from April 2 for allegedly making threatening remarks against BPF chief Hagrama Mohilary but he appealed for a review and subsequently, it was reduced to 24 hours.
State Congress unit chief Ripun Bora, Lok Sabha MPs Pradyut Bordoloi, Gaurav Gogoi and Abdul Khaleque led the party's campaign along with AICC Assam in-charge Jitendra Singh.
The BJP attacked Ajmal by accusing him of encouraging illegal immigration from Bangladesh, leading to "land and love Jihad".
The saffron party promised to tackle these issues by bringing in a legislation.
The saffron party, besides speaking about development initiatives taken by the "double-engine government", also attacked the Congress for aligning with the AIUDF.
The Congress, on the other hand, focussed its campaign on the 'five guarantees' of not implementing CAA, providing government jobs to five lakh youths, 200 units of free power, raising daily wages of tea garden workers to Rs 365 and giving a monthly allowance of Rs 2,000 to homemakers.
To reach out to the electors, several contestants played Holi and danced to the tunes of Bihu songs, as the state's most important festival 'Rongali Bihu' is just a fortnight away.
Apart from Sarma, other important candidates in the fray are Chandra Mohan Patowary (Dharampur), Siddhartha Bhattacharya (Gauhati East), Asom Gana Parishad's Phanibhushan Choudhury (Bongaigaon), BJP state chief Ranjeet Kumar Dass (Patacharkuchi), Pramila Rani Brahma (Kokrajhar-East) and Kokrajhar MP Naba Sarania (Barama).
The fate of 20 sitting MLAs, including eight from the Congress, five from the BJP, three each from the AIUDF and BPF and one from AGP, will be decided in the final phase.
Singer Kalpana Patowary is contesting on an AGP ticket from Sarukhetri, while journalists Manjit Mahanta and Hridyananda Gogoi are locked in a battle in Dispur on Congress and NCP tickets respectively.
The ruling BJP is contesting 20 constituencies while its allies AGP in 12 and UPPL in eight.
The Congress is contesting 23 seats while its partners AIUDF in 12, BPF in eight and CPI(M) in one.
A friendly contest will be witnessed between the AIUDF and Congress in four seats.
Newly floated Assam Jatiya Parishad is contesting 21 seats.
A total of 79,19,641 electors, including 40,11,539 males, 39,07,963 females and 139 persons of the third gender are eligible to exercise their franchise.