Stage set for the great Gauhati fight
GUWAHATI: With the campaigning for the third phase of elections going on in full swing, the Gauhati Lok Sabha constituency is all set to go to polls on April 23.
The battle for the Gauhati seat would be interesting as all eyes are set on the most prominent seat of northeastern India.
Gauhati constituency consists of 10 assembly segments including Dudhnai (ST), Boko (SC), Chaygaon, Palasbari, Jalukbari, Dispur, Gauhati East, Gauhati West, Hajo and Barkhetry.
As per the state election commission, a total of 2,592 polling stations have been set up for the elections.
Further, Gauhati constituency has a total of 21.78 lakh registered voters. Out of this, 11 lakh are male whereas 10.78 lakh are female voters. On the other hand, only 157 third gender voters are registered from the constituency.
This constituency is partially urban, as Guwahati city is also included in the segment. The SCs and STs constitute one-fifth of the total electorate. Further, Muslim voters constitute around four lakh of the population in the constituency.
The Lok Sabha seat is currently represented by Bhartiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Bijoya Chakravarty. She emerged victorious with 7,64,985 votes polled in her favour in 2014. Her nearest rival was Congress’ Manash Borah who bagged 4,49,201 votes.
In the history of Lok Sabha elections in Gauhati, the seat has never had a single predominant party sweeping the elections for consecutive years for a long time.
Additionally this time, a total of 19 contestants have filed their nominations and are in fray from the Gauhati constituency.
Some of the prominent names who are set to contest from the Gauhati seat include Bobbeeta Sarma from Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Queen Ojha and Manoj Sharma from Trinamool Congress (TMC).
Additionally, Bharatiya Gana Parishad's Dr Avijit Chakraborty, independent candidate and lawyer Upamanyu Hazarika and Swarna Bharat Party's Pankaj Das have also filed their nominations.
Face-off between women contenders
As per political analysts, there is set to be a direct fight between the two female candidates from BJP and Congress in Gauhati this time.
On March 29, the Congress party announced Bobbeeta Sarma as its candidate to contest the Gauhati Lok Sabha (LS) seat for the Lok Sabha elections 2019 making the contest attention-grabbing in Guwahati as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had already fielded Queen Ojha who is also a prominent female politician of the city.
If money investment is to be taken as the key factor to win Lok Sabha elections, the contest will be exciting as both the candidates are well-known businesswomen of the city.
Ojha also contested for the legislative assembly in 2001 from Gauhati East constituency but was defeated by Congress candidate Capt Robin Bordoloi. Even Siddhartha Bhattacharya was defeated in the same year.
Ojha joined BJP in 2014 and has now been fielded by BJP for the Gauhati Lok Sabha seat.
Further, Bobbeeta Sarma is General Secretary, Assam Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC) and had contested the 2016 Assam legislative election unsuccessfully from Gauhati East constituency.
Both the candidates have undergone the experience of losing legislative assembly elections from the same constituency (Gauhati East).
Queen Ojha has more political experience than Sarma as Ojha has been active as a politician since the days of the Assam Agitation. She later joined Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and in 1996 became the mayor of Guwahati after winning Guwahati Municipal Corporation elections.
Poor performance of the incumbent MP Bijoya Chakravarty in her constituency led the BJP to field Ojha this time.
Commenting on Bijoya Chakravarty’s tenure, while some people in her constituency have expressed concern regarding the perennial issues of the city that, over the years, had not only not been resolved but had instead aggravated, several also opined that the city needs a more proactive leader to represent them in the parliament.
During the last Lok Sabha elections, a total of 15,11,729 voters turned up on the day of polling and the voter turnout was 78.64 per cent. On the other hand, as many as 19,22,270 electors were registered in 2014.
The constituency saw 78.64% voter turnout in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. In Gauhati, the male voter turnout was 79.50% whereas 77.74% female voters turned out for voting.
However, apart from the two female contenders, independent candidate Upamanyu Hazarika is also being considered a strong contender from the seat.
A senior advocate of the Supreme Court of India by profession, Hazarika is also the convener of the Prabajan Virodhi Manch. After filing his nomination papers, Hazarika said that he is contesting elections to fight for the rights of the indigenous people and also urged the people to vote for him in order to protect the identity of Assam.
Candidates in news
More recently, two Gauhati candidates Queen Ojha and Upamanyu Hazarika were in the news for different reasons. While Queen Ojha was caught in the middle of a row on educational qualification, Hazarika caught people’s attention when he used an empty BJP “office” for his own campaigning.
Queen Ojha had come under scrutiny with regard to her educational qualifications. The Election Commission, on April 4, had decided to seek a report of the BJP candidate from concerned authorities for allegedly providing “false information” about her educational qualification in the affidavit.
Ojha had stated that her highest educational qualification is that of “Higher Secondary from Krishna Kanta Handiqui State Open University in 2011.” However, KKHSOU Vice Chancellor, Hitesh Deka said that the institution does not offer any higher secondary or Grade 12 course.
Deka said that their university does not have such a course and no open university in the country offers a higher secondary course.
However, the VC informed that Ojha had done a Bachelor Preparatory Programme (BPP) in 2011-12 and took admission in the degree course, but did not continue due to some personal reasons.
The BJP candidate, however, stood tall and said, “I have faith in myself, the people and the entire electoral process. I have not done anything wrong.”
However, Ojha came clean in the controversy after the concerned presiding officer declared her educational qualification, which was submitted along with her nomination, to be true. The declaration was made after proper scrutiny carried out by the officer.
On the other hand, independent candidate Upamanyu Hazarika recently entered an empty BJP office in Guwahati and started campaigning from there. The video of him campaigning from the BJP office was widely shared on social media.
Speaking during the occasion Hazarika said, “Just like this office, the promises made by BJP are also empty.”
He also distributed pamphlets and urged people to vote for him in the ensuing Lok Sabha elections. After this, the BJP filed a police complaint against Hazarika for trespassing into the party office. They also claimed that certain important documents had gone missing.