Assam panchayat polls a test for ruling BJP

Panchayat polls underway in Sonitpur district in central Assam on Wednesday morning. (Photo courtesy: Manash Das)

The two-phase panchayat elections in Assam which began on Wednesday is seen as a significant event for the ruling BJP ahead of the Lok Sabha polls next year.

Political observers in the state see the panchayat polls as a test for the BJP as the ruling party is facing sharp criticism including from its ally Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) over the NDA's move to pass the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016.

In view of its opposition to the bill, the AGP has decided not to continue its alliance with the BJP for the panchayat polls.

Campaigns to the run-up to the elections saw heated charges and counter charges between the AGP and the BJP, mainly over the bill.

The AGP said that a vote for the BJP would mean supporting the illegal migrants as the BJP was reportedly trying to welcome Hindu illegal-migrants from neighbouring Bangladesh. 

Groups leading indigenous communities are up in arms against the bill saying it would reduce them into a linguistic minority as the bill would make the illegal migrants, living in Assam, Indian citizens.

They say that by trying to pass the bill, the BJP had taken a 'U-turn' on its promise before the 2016 Assembly elections— which is to protect the identity of the indigenous people of Assam.

The BJP, on the other hand claimed that it would win maximum seats due to the development work it has done and its actions against the corruption reportedly committed during the Congress' rule between 2006 and 2016.

The ruling party said that the Opposition Congress and AIUDF would be 'wiped out' from the rural areas of the state.

Acording to the State Election Commission, 78,571 candidates are contesting 26,808 seats across 2,200 Gaon Panchayats in Assam.

In the first phase, a total of 43,515 candidates are contesting for 15,899 seats.

Polling for the rest of the seats will be held during the second phase on December 12.

The polling in ballot papers began at 7 am and will continue till 3 pm, Wednesday.

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