At least 20 per cent voters in Assam exercised their franchise during the initial hours of polling to decide the fate of 539 contestants in 65 constituencies in the first phase of Assembly election held on Monday amid tight security.
Voters, particularly women and first timers, were seen queuing at polling booths from 5am to participate in the democratic process where the ruling Congress, the BJP-AGP-BPF alliance and the AIUDF are locked in a keen battle.
Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, along with his wife Dolly Gogoi, son and MP Gaurav Gogoi and brother Deep Gogoi, cast his ballot at the polling station in Debicharan Baruah Girls High School in Jorhat.
There were reports of malfunctioning of electronic voting machines (EVMs) in some polling centres due to which voting was affected for some time but they were swifty replaced, election office said.
At least 20 per cent voters exercised their franchise in the first two hours, it said. Altogether 12,190 polling stations been set up in the 65 constituencies for the 95,11,732 voters, including 45,95,712 women, manned by over 48,000 polling personnel.
Security is at its highest in the state with the Indo-Bangla border along Barak Valley's Karimganj district sealed and 535 companies of security forces of central and state police deployed in the 65 constituencies spread across Upper Assam, two hill districts, northern bank and Barak Valley.
For today's first phase of polling Congress is contesting in all the 65 constituencies, BJP in 54 and its alliance partners—AGP in 11 and BPF in three, AIUDF in 27, CPI and CPM in ten each with CPI(ML)(L) in six along with 60 others of unrecognised parties and 13 Independents.
Prominent Congress contestants are Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, Assembly Speaker Pranab Gogoi, former Union Minister and prominent tea tribe leader Paban Singh Ghatowar, Assam Ministers Gautam Roy, Sarat Barkotoky, Ajanta Neog, Khorsingh Engti, Siddeque Ahmed, Bismita Gogoi, Sumitra Patir and Girindra Malik, among others.
The BJP's star candidates are Union minister and party's Chief Minister candidate Sarbananda Sonowal, Jorhat MP Kamakhya Prasad Tasa, MLAs Prashanta Phukan, Dilip Paul, Hiten Goswami, Padma Hazarika and Naba Doley, besides former ULFA militant Kushal Duwari.
AGP's prominent nominees are its working president Atul Bora and sitting MLAs Keshab Mahanta and Utpal Dutta along with former minister Pradip Hazarika.
The remaining 61 constituencies will go to polls on April 11 in the second phase.