At least 68 per cent of the voters exercised their franchise on the first phase of Lok Sabha polling in five constituencies in Assam on Thursday, a top election official said. The polling percentage is likely to increase further as hundreds of people are still in the queue at the end of 5 pm.
Chief Electoral Officer Mukesh Chandra Sahu told PTI that as per latest information 68 per cent of the voters have cast their votes in five constituencies. “This voting percentage will go up further as many people are still in the queue. Those who entered the polling centres by 5 pm will be allowed to vote,” he added. Sahu informed that there were reports of malfunctioning of EVMs from some booths and defective machines have been replaced.
“As per the initial reports, around 100 VVPATS were replaced, while 20 units of control and ballot units were changed. The control unit and ballot unit are changed in pair always. These figures are also likely to go up slightly as we have not received the final numbers from the centres yet,” the CEO said.
Dibrugarh, Jorhat, Kaliabor, Tezpur and Lakhimpur Lok Sabha constituencies have an electorate of 76,03,458, including 38,65,334 males, 37,37,970 females and 154 of the third gender, who will decide the fate of 41 candidates.
Jorhat has recorded the highest of 72 per cent polling till 5 pm, followed by Tezpur with 70 per cent and Dibrugarh with 69 per cent. Kaliabor and Lakhimpur recorded 64 and 62 per cent respectively.
Voting took place across 9,574 election booths, manned by over 42,000 polling personnel and 180 companies of Central security forces and the state. There was all-round enthusiasm among all sections of voters in all the five constituencies to exercise their franchise since early morning.
First time voters, women, people with disabilities and elderly citizens came out in large numbers to exercise their franchise and long queues were seen before polling booths through the day.
Most of the 225 model polling stations have been decorated with balloons and flowers, while the first voter was offered the traditional Assamese ‘gamocha’. In many polling stations, ‘Selfie Point’ have been set up where voters, both young and old, were seen taking selfies after exercising their franchise.
Among the prominent people to cast their votes in the first half of the day was Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal at 153 Sahityarathi Lakshminath Bezbaroa Sahitya Sabha Bhavan in Dibrugarh and former CM Tarun Gogoi along with his wife Dolly and son Gaurav, who is the sitting MP and contesting Congress candidate from Kaliabor.
Lakhimpur Congress candidate Anil Borgohain was the first to cast his ballot at an all-woman polling booth, while his BJP rival and sitting MP Pradan Barua exercised his franchise at Dhemaji.
Jorhat BJP candidate and state Power Minister Tapan Gogoi and his Congress rival Sushanta Borgohain, former Union Minister and Dibrugarh Congress candidate Paban Singh Ghatowar and Kaliabor AGP-BJP alliance candidate Monimadhab Mahanta accompanied by his brother and state minister Keshab Mahanta also exercised their franchise in their respective home towns.
In Tezpur both Congress candidate MGVK Bhanu and his BJP rival and state minister Pallab Lochan Das arrived at the famed Mahabhairav Temple at the same time to offer prayers before going to the polling station to exercise their franchise.
They greeted each other, shook hands and even posed together for photographers before leaving the temple premises for their respective polling booths.
While the first phase of the three-phase voting for 14 Lok Sabha seats in Assam is taking place on Thursday, the second and third phases will happen on April 18 and 23, while the counting of votes will be on May 23 after completion of the entire seven-phase voting across the country.