GUWAHATI, April 26 - With the State registering an all-time high turnout in the Lok Sabha polls this time, leaders of both the ruling BJP and the principal opposition Congress are of the opinion that the record polling will be advantageous for their respective parties.
Even as the BJP claimed that the huge turnout suggests an endorsement for the Narendra Modi-led government’s “development agenda” and that the electorate are keen to see the return of the NDA regime for another term, the Congress believes that increase in voters’ participation reflects “anti-incumbency” and a desire for change.
“Firstly, we believe that anti-incumbency is one of the reasons for the record turnout. We, as an opposition party, think that voters had turned up at the polling stations in such large numbers because they want a change and due to their desire to see that the country’s Constitution and democratic system, which have come under serious threat under the NDA regime, are preserved. Secondly, people nowadays are more conscious and they are keen to exercise their democratic rights. There is more awareness regarding the power of the vote. Besides, the polling rate was higher in constituencies of lower Assam, central Assam and Barak Valley, where minority community electors are comparatively more in number. There is a decades-old trend in Assam of turnout being higher in minority-dominated areas,” a senior Assam Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC) leader told this newspaper.
He claimed that higher turnout in constituencies like Barpeta, Dhubri, Nagaon, Kaliabor and Mangaldoi would benefit the Congress as minorities are unlikely to back the ruling party.
“The record turnout will benefit us. However, polling percentages are comparatively lower in constituencies like Lakhimpur, Jorhat and Dibrugarh. Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal had earlier represented both Lakhimpur and Dibrugarh in the Lok Sabha and he himself hails from the latter constituency. Besides, the Majuli Legislative Assembly Constituency (LAC) segment, represented by Sonowal himself at present, as well as segments like Jorhat and Dhemaji witnessed lower turnout in the parliamentary polls,” said the leader.
He attributed the lesser turnout in upper Assam to discontentment with the BJP. “Disenchantment against the ruling party is on the rise. People of upper Assam are feeling deprived. The government has not done anything in those areas. So, the electorate have lost faith in the BJP and the Chief Minister,” said the APCC office-bearer.
The Congress party alleged that BJP played the “communal card” in the run-up to the elections.
“BJP tried its best to polarise the voters. Many senior BJP leaders made provocative comments in public. The ruling party was also supported by the AIUDF in this matter. And I must admit that they (BJP) did succeed to some extent (in polarising the electorate),” added the Congress leader.
On the other hand, the ruling party attributed the record turnout to the electorate’s satisfaction with the Modi government’s performance.
“Minority-dominated areas in Assam have a record of registering high polling percentages. But this time all sections of people came out in large numbers to vote, irrespective of caste, creed and religion. The anti-BJP propaganda by a section of intellectuals and some opposition parties and non-political outfits failed. People have reposed confidence in Modi’s leadership and in the report card of our government. That is why turnout went up to such a level,” a State BJP leader said.
He alleged that there was a tacit agreement between the Congress and the AIUDF, which ended up consolidating the indigenous community electorate behind the BJP.
“People of Assam saw the ‘tie-up’ between the Congress and the AIUDF as a threat. In response, the overwhelming majority of voters belonging to the indigenous communities, as well as Bengali Hindus, tea community and Hindi-speaking electorate backed the BJP. We never tried to conceal our views regarding the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, while at the same time we reiterated our commitment to implement Clause 6 of the Assam Accord. That swung the indigenous community electorate to our side, because they were able to tell the difference between our position and the contradictory stand taken by the Congress party,” said the BJP leader.
He claimed that BJP’s prospects in upper Assam would not be hurt due to lower turnout in those areas.
“Turnout in upper Assam may have gone down a bit. But we will win both Lakhimpur and Dibrugarh by huge margins. In Jorhat, we faced a tough contest, but we will manage to win from that constituency as well,” he added.