In a high voter turnout in Assam’s second and final phase of voting, what stood out was exceptionally high polling in a number of seats where Muslims are in a majority. Monday’s overall turnout was in itself an all-time record — 87.03 per cent in 61 seats — and took the average for Assam’s 126 seats to 84.72 per cent, following 82.20 per cent in the first 65 seats.
Out of 10 assembly segments of the Lok Sabha constituency of Dhubri, represented by Badruddin Ajmal, eight clocked over 90 per cent, while the other two came close. In his brother Sirajuddin Ajmal’s constituency of Barpeta, which has seven segments, the turnouts ranged from a low of 87.72 per cent to a high of 90.91.
“Two things must have happened in these and some other constituencies that have a very high Muslim population,” said senior journalist Haidar Hussain. “One, the Muslims must have been told about some kind of fear that might come if the BJP comes to power, and thus asked to vote in large numbers. And two, either the Congress or the AIUDF must have been successful in motivating the Muslims to vote as one bloc for one party. It is, however, more likely that the Congress will benefit the most out of this heavy turnout in the Muslim-dominated seats.”
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Outside the AIUDF’s two Lok Sabha constituencies, too, assembly seats in various districts had very high turnouts, such as Boko (89.09), Chhaygaon (90.58), Barkhetri (88.78), Dalgaon (91.42), Mangaldoi (88.61), Laharighat (87.18), Dhing (92.01), Rupohihat (90.05), Batadroba (87.04) and Samaguri (88.67).
“Whether Muslims have voted en bloc or split between the Congress and AIUDF, I think it is a neck-and-neck contest between the Congress and the BJP-led alliance,” said Apurba Kumar Barua, a political analyst who taught political science in Northeastern Hill University. It is also possible that in some seats Muslims have voted in higher numbers for the AIUDF, including in Dhubri and Barpeta, and in other areas for the Congress, he said. In that case, the Congress stands to gain at the expense of the AIUDF, which would partly make up for losses it is believed to have suffered in the first phase.
State BJP president Sarbananda Sonowal was still confident: “Our Mission-84 is successful. Our alliance is definitely winning at least 84 seats.” APCC state president Anjan Dutta said, “We will get at least 75 seats. Apart from Muslims, a sizeable section of Bengali Hindus voted for us, apart from a major section of the Assamese.”