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Major political parties girding up loins
 GUWAHATI, Sept 23 - With the Election Commission of India (ECI) having announced the schedule for by-polls to four vacant legislative Assembly constituencies of Assam, the major political parties have started preparations to woo the voters and are giving final touches to their electoral strategies.

While the ruling BJP is confident of making a clean sweep by winning all the four seats in contention, principal Opposition Congress is aiming to improve its performance this time around by wresting at least one or two constituencies from the saffron party.

By-polls will be held for four Assembly seats, namely Sonari, Rangapara, Ratabari and Jania on October 21 and counting of votes will be taken up on October 24.

These seats fell vacant after the legislators representing them got elected to the Lok Sabha in the recent parliamentary polls and resigned from the Assembly.

Kripanath Mallah of Ratabari constituency, Pallab Lochan Das of Rangapara and Topon Kumar Gogoi of Sonari, all three from the BJP, besides Abdul Khaleque of Congress from Jania constituency vacated their Assembly seats after getting elected to the Lok Sabha.

“Development will be our major poll plank. We will highlight the achievements of the Central government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the State government headed by Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal during our election campaign. The recent Lok Sabha poll results have proved that our support base among the electorate in Assam is solid and we are confident of winning from all the four constituencies going to the by-elections,” State BJP spokesperson Rupam Goswami told this newspaper.

The ruling party will put up candidates in all the four constituencies.

“We won from Sonari, Ratabari and Rangapara in the 2016 Assembly elections and we had also contested from Jania as part of the seat-sharing arrangement among the NDA partners. So, all four seats are from our quota,” Goswami said.

BJP’s national committee is expected to announce the party’s nominees by the end of this week. The last date for filing of nomination by candidates is September 30.

BJP has received close to 80 applications from its leaders and cadres seeking party candidature to contest the by-polls from the four constituencies.

Asked about the minority-dominated Jania constituency, Goswami said, “The minorities have been equal beneficiaries of the social welfare schemes of our governments at the Centre and State and that is why they (Muslims) have flocked to our party in Assam in large numbers. The false propaganda by the Congress has got exposed. Minorities have full faith in Prime Minister Modi and Chief Minister Sonowal. We will win from Jania.”

On the other hand, the Congress party is looking to emerge victorious from at least two out of the four seats.

“We are sure about retaining Jania constituency and also pretty confident that we will wrest Ratabari from the BJP in the by-polls. Besides, we also believe that we have a fighting chance in Sonari,” said a senior office-bearer of the Assam Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC).

The Congress may field fresh faces in at least a couple of constituencies. The party is also likely to opt for ‘local’ candidates.

“We have been working extensively in all four constituencies since the past four months. There are quite a few interested aspirants of our party in all the seats. People are disillusioned with the BJP regime as the ruling party has failed to fulfil any of its pre-poll promises. Voters are getting attracted to us and this gives us confidence of putting up a good performance,” said the Congress leader.

The respective district Congress committees (DDCs) have been told to submit their shortlist of candidates to the APCC on September 24. They will then be forwarded to the party’s high command.

“We expect the names of our party candidates to be out by September 28,” added the leader.

Meanwhile, the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) has also decided to jump into the fray.

“We will fight the by-polls. While we have not yet decided on our final poll strategy, we may field our nominees in three out of the four constituencies going to the elections. However, the final decision will be taken at our core committee meeting which will take place in another two or three day’s time,” said Haidor Hussain Bora, general secretary of AIUDF.

He said that the AIUDF had won the Jania seat in the 2011 Assembly polls.

“So Jania is a traditional seat for us and we have a very strong organisational base there. Besides, we also have a big presence in Ratabari. We may also contest from Rangapara. But, as I said, the final decision will only be taken during our core committee meeting, which will be chaired by our party president Badruddin Ajmal,” Bora added.

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