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#AssamPolls: Has BJP moved away from Modi-only campaign formula?

Has the Bharatiya Janata Party moved away from Modi-takes-the-center-stage style of campaigning? Anyone in Guwahati who is listening to the local FM stations must have noticed the massive airtime the party has ‘purchased’ to let the voters know about its CM candidate – Sarbananda Sonowal.

“Xokolute Ananda, Sarbananda” is a peppy number by singer Zubeen Garg and the song portrays the BJP in the state as a harbinger of happiness and prosperity for its people. The song begins on a celebratory note and registers the “Xokolute Ananda, Sarbananda” slogan four times before the “Lotus blossoms” thereby making it sure the listener doesn’t miss the main areas of thrust. The four-minute video focuses on one man — the BJP chief ministerial candidate Sarbananda Sonowal.

Unlike the campaign for other elections, wherein the BJP put forth PM Narendra Modi as the sole face of the party, in Assam the party gave center-stage to its CM candidate. Political experts say the defeat in Bihar was a blow to the party and the party wanted to harp of the comparatively cleaner image of Sarbananda Sonowal to call for a change in Assam.

Interestingly during the Bihar elections, voices within the BJP wanted a stronger projection of a local leader and the loss may have led to a slight change in plan for the party. Although the prime minister and BJP president Amit Shah are visible in the campaign video, the song’s lyrics – being played on radio – hails the CM candidate as the messenger of change.

The song also does not fail to play up on the immigrant situation, warning the Assamese voters at one stage that if they vote for the Congress, they will lose their rights within the state. The influx of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants has been a major election plank in Assam.

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Come out and vote for a healthy democracy: Barsha Rani Bishaya

On the penultimate day of campaigning for the second phase of polls in Assam, the election commission is leaving no stone unturned to raise voter awareness. In an exclusive chat with HeyNortheast, popular actress and brand ambassador for the Kamrup Metro district’s Systematic Voter Education and Electronic Participation (SVEEP) cell, Barsha Rani Bishaya said that the election commission is working hard for voter awareness and are using innovative tools to reach maximum voters.

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“It’s we who decide who runs the government. So it is very important that we go out and vote because without people’s participation the election process won’t be a healthy one. Every vote counts and this time we are expecting more voter awareness – we are working towards it – and expect a good turnout on April 11,” said Barsha Rani Bishaya. Besides, the actress told that she is expecting the women voters to come out and vote with their male counterparts and make the polls a success.

According to the election commission authorities, the awareness programmes are yielding benefits and the 82.2% polling recorded in the first phase of polling was a testimony to that. Officials from the Kamrup Metro district said that the voting percentage in the district should touch around 90% this time reaching an all-time high.

“We are reaching out to the public in newer and more innovative ways and this has been a huge factor in the expected rise in polling percentage,” said an official.

Speaking about joining the campaign, Barsha said that this is an honour that the election commission has approached her to be the face of the campaign for a healthy democracy. “I am honoured that I could help in this. I feel being a public figure, my association with the campaign will motivate people to come out and vote. I would request each one of you to vote and especially the women voters – you shouldn’t sit back at home but be an important decision maker in the democracy,” she said.

#AssamPolls: 78% voting recorded in the first phase

Voting for the first phase of the Assam Assembly polls ended peacefully with more than 78% votes registered till 5 pm on Monday. The election commission has suggested that the voting count will increase to 80% as reports from certain interior areas are yet to be compiled in the main database.

The first phase of polls for the Assam Assembly, covering 65 constituencies, witnessed long queues as voting began at 7 in the morning. Enthusiastic voters – men, women, youths, first-time voters, senior citizens and people from all sections of the society – stood in long queues for hours to exercise their franchise.

Reports of malfunctioning in Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) came from 7 polling stations where the device was replaced immediately without any interruption in the voting process.

Chabua LAC had reported the highest turnout of 85.19 per cent at 5 pm, while the lowest turnout of 67 per cent was reported from Sarupathar LAC.

Here’s a glimpse of the first phase of the voting.

The fate of many prominent candidates, including Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, BJP’s chief ministerial candidate Sarbananda Sonowal, AGP chief Atul Bora, Speaker Pranab Gogoi, ministers Gautam Roy, Ajanta Neog, Pranati Phukan, among others, were sealed in the EVMs.

The 65 LACs which went to the polls today were spread across Upper Assam, North Bank, Hill districts and Barak Valley.

A total of 95,11,732 electors were eligible to exercise their franchise in the first phase. Among them, 49,16,015 were male voters and 45,95,712 were female voters. A total of 539 candidates were in the fray for the 65 LACs. There were 43 female candidates.

There were 187 candidates from recognised political parties, including 52 from BJP, 65 from Congress, nine from NCP, 10 from CPI, 10 from CPM, 11 from AGP, 27 from AIUDF and three from BPF.

#AssamPolls: Focus on social media as phase 1 campaign ends

It’s all on the voters now. Campaigning for the first phase of the Assam Assembly polls to be held across 65 Assembly constituencies in the Upper Assam and Barak Valley belt concluded at 5 pm on Saturday. The 65 constituencies will poll on April 4 while the second and last phase of polls comprising 61 constituencies will be on April 11.

The campaign ended on a high note for all the political parties as they roped in top campaigners to woo the voters. With battlelines drawn, the focus has now shifted to door-to-door campaigning and the social media which has been used extensively by the political parties.

Putting out a video message of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the BJP Assam Pradesh Facebook page says, “BJP is the only party which can fulfill the aspirations of the people of Assam. It is going to bring the development for which people of Assam have been waiting since Independence. We need ‪#‎BJP4Assam.”

For Congress, the war-room boys are leaving no stone unturned either. Posting content for youth consumption, the Assam Pradesh Youth Congress Facebook page has been posting interesting Memes targeting the BJP, video bytes of various party leaders and also the theme song for the campaign – a peppy number by Dikshu & Kalpana Patowary. The theme song has been viewed more than 14,000 times in past 12 hours. The video, interestingly, carries a montage of the achievements of the Congress government in the past 15 years of rule in the state. Among the main highlights are roads, sports infrastructure, small-scale industries, petrochemicals, education and financial institutions. The interestingly crafted video gives due credit to the various ethnic groups as well.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4M_wsJKcGbM

Here’s the BJP’s campaign song sung by Zubeen Garg.

The regional parties seem lacking in the social media front as they hardly exist in the new media bandwagon. Maulana Badruddin Ajmal’s All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) has a public group with around 20,000 members on Facebook but there is no official line of communication therein. The Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), which is contesting the elections in partnership with the BJP, also has limited presence.

Former Congress minister and current BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma appears much ahead in terms of social media use. The former health and education minister has around 55,000 followers on Twitter while his verified Facebook page has over 1.62 lakh likes. Sarma is using his social media accounts to share his political views, updates from the campaign trail and occasional discussions and attacks on the Congress government.

Chief minister Tarun Gogoi, on the other hand, has seen rapid rise in online reputation as the 79-year-old is seen growing popularity amongst the social media users. Gogoi is doing Hangout sessions and has an interactive website besides being present on the ‘traditional’ Facebook and Twitter.

Gogoi is using Twitter to reach his 30,000 followers with his political views and updates on the election process. The social media accounts are widely used to publicize the ‘15-years of development’ message which is the core campaign message for the party. But, his much publicized website is “under construction” since almost a month now.

With a day to go for polls in more than half of the total Assembly seats, it will be interesting to note where the swing is and in the battle of votes, who wins the chair. Can Sarbananda Sonowal break the Tarun Gogoi spell? Or, will the 79-year-old have the last laugh? That is also an important matter!