It is beginning from the east. The first phase of the nine-phase 2014 Lok Sabha elections will see six constituencies — five in the oil-rich and tea-growing upper Assam region and one in Tripura (West) — going to polls on a day which is also the 35th foundation day of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), now a group that is divided and weak.
At least two former ULFA militants are in the fray in the first phase. Hari Prasad Dihingiya was, till a few years ago, the district commander in Dhemaji, where 12 schoolchildren died in a blast on Independence Day a decade back. Dihingiya, now an AGP candidate, is contesting from Lakhimpur which includes Dhemaji.
For Raj Kumar Dowarah, who was with the ULFA from 1985 to 1992, it is his fifth electoral battle. He was unsuccessful in all his earlier attempts — two Assembly polls and two Lok Sabha polls.
The ULFA, now headed by Paresh Barua, has remained silent on the elections. “There is no specific threat, but we have kept our forces alert as usual,” said a top Assam Police official.
A total of 51 candidates are in the fray in the five constituencies of Assam, including union ministers of state Paban Singh Ghatowar (Dibrugarh) and Ranee Narah (Lakhimpur), state BJP chief Sarbananda Sonowal (Lakhimpur), former union minister B K Handique (Jorhat) and Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi’s son Gourav Gogoi (Kaliabor).
Though the Congress holds four of the seats, barring Tezpur which went to AGP in 2009, the BJP has managed to generate a lot of momentum. In Tezpur, lottery don and three-time MP Moni Kumar Subba, who is contesting as an Independent this time, is likely to cause serious damage to AICC secretary Bhupen Kumar Bora’s prospects.
The AAP has four candidates in the first phase — three in Assam and one in Tripura (West).
In Tripura (West), 13 candidates are in the fray for a seat which the CPI(M) has won 10 times since 1952.