Over 69% cast votes in Assam bypolls (Evening Ld)

Guwahati, Oct 30: Over 69.60 per cent of nearly eight lakh voters on Saturday cast their votes in the bypolls to the five Assembly seats in Assam, officials said.

Election officials said that the voting was held from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. under heavy security cover of the central forces and strict Covid protocols in all the 1,176 polling stations. One health worker was posted as Covid Nodal Officer in each of the polling stations, where sanitizer, infrared thermometer and social distancing were religiously followed by the voters and elections officials.

According to the election officials, the voting was peaceful and no untoward incident was reported from anywhere of the five districts, where the by-elections were conducted. The state's Chief Electoral Officer Nitin Khade, who along with other officials monitored the polling process through webcasting, said that there has been no incident so far.

"Adequate Central Armed Police Forces were deployed at each polling station to ensure free and fair polling," he said. Deputy Commissioners and Superintendents of Police of the five districts personally supervised the situations.

An election official said that showcasing Assam's vibrant traditional culture, many of the polling stations were decorated with local produce and items.

Nearly eight lakh voters, including 3,93,078 women, were eligible to decide the fate of 31 candidates in Mariani, Thowra, Bhabanipur, Gossaigaon and Tamulpur Assembly seats. The BJP has fielded turncoat candidates in three seats -- Congress' Rupjyoti Kurmi in Mariani and Sushanta Borgohain in Thowra, and All India United Democratic Front's (AIUDF) Phanidhar Talukdar in Bhabanipur. The BJP's ally United People's Party Liberal (UPPL) had nominated Jiron Basumatary in Gossaigaon and Jolen Daimary in Tamulpur.

The main opposition Congress, which fielded candidates in all five seats, has been trying hard to at least retain the Thowra and Mariani seats.

The AIUDF has fielded candidates in Bhabanipur and Gossaigaon, while the Akhil Gogoi-led Raijor Dal is contesting in Thowra and Mariani and Hagrama Mahilary-led Bodoland People's Front (BPF) is contesting in Gossaigaon.

The AIUDF and the BPF were allies of the Congress-led 10-party 'Mahajot' (grand alliance) in the Assembly polls earlier this year.

The by-elections were necessitated due to the Covid-related deaths of two sitting MLAs belonging to UPPL and BPF while two Congress (Kurmi and Borgohain) and one AIUDF legislator (Talukdar) joined BJP after quitting their Assembly membership.

The counting of votes will take place on November 2.