Saturday was the first phase of the Assam Assembly polls. According to the Election Commission's Turnout App, 72.87 per cent of Assam's 8,109,815 voters had cast their votes till 6 pm which was conducted in 47 constituencies. The highest voter turnout was seen from Biswanath district's (82.12 per cent) Behali and Biswanath constituencies with 81.10 and 82.90 per cent, respectively.
Voting began across 11,537 polling stations mostly covering the eastern Assam's 12 districts from 7 am till 6 pm. The Election Commission extended the time by an hour because of the COVID-19 induced situations. A total of 8,109,815 voters, including 4,032,481 females, are eligible to cast their ballot.
COVID-19 protocols for the voters, including social distancing and thermal screening, are being maintained. Election officials said that to avoid crowding, the number of voters for every booth has been brought down to a maximum of 1,000. As a result, the number of polling booths has been augmented by 34.71 per cent to 33,530 from 24,890 in 2016. To avoid direct contact with the electronic voting machine (EVM), every elector is being given hand gloves. Except for some EVM glitches, no major incidents were reported so far from any of the poll-bound Assembly segments.
The officials said that to maintain social distancing and other COVID-19 protocols and due to technical snags of the EVMs in some polling stations, the casting of votes caused little slow. Saturday's voting is being held in the Assamese heartland comprising the south and north banks of the Brahmaputra River.
After casting his vote at Sahitya Sabha Bhavan in Dibrugarh, Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, who is contesting from Majuli, told the media that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) would get more than 100 seats in the 126-member Assembly.
Both the ruling BJP-led alliance and the opposition Congress-led coalition are confident of winning maximum seats out of the 47 seats that went to the polls on Saturday. The first phase of polling in the BJP-ruled state will decide the fate of 264 candidates, including 23 female aspirants.
According to the election officials, over 30,000 Central Armed Police Forces along with thousands of state security forces have been deployed to maintain law and order during this phase. No untoward incident has been reported so far from any of the 12 districts.
In a unique gesture, the election officials donated saplings and Assam's traditional 'gamocha' to the aged, women and differently-abled voters in the 128 model polling stations, which were decorated with colourful balloons, bamboo crafts and local items.
The 126-member Assam Assembly will go to the polls in three phases. The other two phases will be held on April 1 (39 seats) and April 6 (40 seats). Results will be announced on May 2.
(With Inputs from IANS)