Assam Panchayat polls: More than 65 per cent turnout amid Citizenship Bill rowhttps://indianexpress.com/article/north-east-india/assam/assam-panchayat-polls-more-than-65-per-cent-turnout-amid-citizenship-bill-row-5480597/

Assam Panchayat polls: More than 65 per cent turnout amid Citizenship Bill row

The panchayat election comes at a time when the BJP government in the state is facing criticism over its proposal to pass the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016.

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The second phase of voting will be held on December 9 and the votes would be counted on December 12. (Representational Photo)

Assam recorded more than 65 per cent turnout in the panchayat elections held in 16 districts that went to polls in the first phase on Wednesday.

State Election Commissioner of Assam H N Bora told reporters that the percentage was expected to rise by another 10 per cent by the time of the final data accumulation. He added that in a few districts, like Lakhimpur, there could be re-polling.

The second phase of voting will be held on December 9 and the votes would be counted on December 12.

The panchayat election comes at a time when the BJP government in the state is facing criticism over its proposal to pass the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016. The Bill essentially proposes to make minority (non-Muslim) immigrants from three neighbouring countries — Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan — eligible for Indian citizenship.

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BJP leaders, however, term the allegations against the Bill as “misplaced propaganda” and say that the party will sweep the panchayat polls.

“The BJP in Assam symbolises an inclusive government, in which representatives from different linguistic and ethnic communities have been chosen as MLAs,” Ranjit Dass, president of the BJP’s state unit, said.

The state BJP chief also termed the criticism of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill — opposition parties have said that the Bill, if passed, will have detrimental effects on the Assamese community — as mere “propaganda”.

According to the 1985 Assam Accord, any person who came into Assam after midnight of March 24, 1971, would be identified as a foreigner, and consequently a clause was inserted in the Citizenship Act 1955 under Section 6A. But the proposed Bill, critics say, violates the Accord by differentiating migrants on the basis of their religion.

The state Congress, on the other hand, points out the BJP’s proposal to pass the Bill remains one of the most important reason why people of Assam should vote against the BJP in the panchayat elections.

Speaking at a rally in Barpeta district Wednesday, Assam Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said that the allegation that if the Bill is passed 1.5 crore hitherto illegal migrants will become citizens is “unrealistic”.

Debabrata Saikia, leader of the Congress in the Assembly, said that among the crucial issues in this panchayat election are BJP’s non-fulfilment of various commitments of rural development, lack of funds for development at Panchayat levels and the Bill.

“If they disregard the commitment made in the Assam Accord, then it will lead to serious problems in the state,” Saikia said.

Man shot at for disrupting polls dies

Guwahati: A 45-year-old man, who was shot at by the police after he allegedly tried to attack voters at Habial village in Assam’s Golaghat district, succumbed Wednesday, police said. —ENS