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Illegal migration, insurgency key issues in Assam

By K Anurag in Guwahati
April 22, 2009 16:42 IST
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The key issues of illegal migration from Bangladesh that is changing the demography of the state, insurgency and sluggish development will play in the minds of the total 1,47, 29,601 voters in Assam when they exercise their franchise on Thursday to elect their representatives to Lok Sabha from the 11 parliamentary constituencies.

The second phase (last phase in the Northeast) polling will be held in constituencies of Dhubri, Kokrajhar, Barpeta, Mangaldai, Tezpur, Lakhimpur, Guwahati, Nagaon, Kaliabor, Jorhat and Dibrugarh. Out of these seven constituencies were won by the Congress in 2004 polls, while the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Asom Gana Parishad won two each, while the Bodo People's Front won the Kokrajhar seat.

However, the Congress is on a tough turf this time around because of the election alliance between the main rivals AGP and BJP. The Assam United Democratic Front, a potpourri of about a dozen minority parties, which is led but Mumbai-based perfume mogul Maulana Badruddin Ajmal is also emerging as a major challenge to the Congress -- especially in constituencies of Dhubri, Barpeta, Magaldai,Nagaon and Kaliabor where Muslims voters hugely influence the election outcome.

The Congress in Assam used to enjoy unchallenged support from the Muslim voters , especially those living in the remote isles of Brahmaputra till last election in 2004 when Congress won nine seats out of the total 14 seats in Assam.

However, the AUDF leader Badruddin Ajmal who is leading the upsurge of the party that was formed only in 2006 to prevent the Congress from "continuous exploitation of poor and downtrodden Muslims only as vote bank during polls," has posed a major hurdle to Congress this time by threatening to split the Muslim votes.

It's the AGP-BJP combine that stands to gain most at the expense of Congress in case of split in Muslim votes between AUDF and Congress in Barpeta, Guwahati, Kaliabor and Nagaon constituencies.

In Mangaldoi, the battle of ballot is between the Congress and the AUDF where the BJP (supported by AGP) has remained a dark horse.

In Dhubri where Muslims voters amount to 71 per cent of the total electorate, the AUDF is threatening to upset the apple cart of Congress which has won most of the election in that constituency since independence.

In the tribal dominated Kokrajhar constituency, the AGP-BJP combine is posing challenge to the sitting BPF Member of Parliament in the poll race, thanks to the imminent split of majority Bodo tribe votes among the two Bodo political partiers, the BPF and Bodoland People's Progressive Front.

The AGP- BJP combine is posing threat to Congress domination in tea-tribe dominated Tezpur, Dibrugarh and Jorhat constituencies. The sitting AGP MP and the candidate of the AGP-BJP combine is facing challenges by the Congress candidate in Lakhimpur constituency, a mosaic of ethnic communities and tea tribe.

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K Anurag in Guwahati