Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Muslim votes key factor in Assam's Karimganj

Posted on Mar 29, 2011 at 12:54pm IST


Muslim votes are expected to be a deciding factor in at least four of the five Assembly constituencies in south Assam's sensitive Karimganj district, bordering Bangladesh, which goes to poll on April 4 in the first phase. As many as 62 per cent of the 1,41,941-strong electorate in South Karimganj Assembly seat are Muslims and their votes will determine the outcome of the election, observers say.

The constituency is set to witness a triangular contest between sitting Congress MLA and parliamentary secretary Sidiq Ahmed, Sipra Gun, BJP nominee and vice-president of All-India Yuva Morcha, and Iqbal Hussain of the Trinamool Congress. Although Gun is virtually out of the race, Hussain, a dissident Congressman, is expected to give a stiff fight to Ahmed as he is regarded to be a strong contender by virtue of being a close confidant of minister Gautam Roy.

Hussain, after being denied a Congress ticket, joined the Trinamool. "In the last five years, I have nurtured my constituency like a mother does for her child and I am very optimistic," Hussain said.

In neighbouring Badarpur constituency, as many as 58 per cent of the 1,28,650-strong electorate are Muslims, and the race will be confined to the Congress, All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) and BJP nominees. Congress' Jamaluddin is pitted against AIUDF's Halauddin Choudhury and BJP's Biswarup Bhattacharjee.

The sitting MLA of Congress is Anwarul Haque and although he sought re-nomination, much to his dismay, the party decided to shift him to Borkhola constituency of neighbouring Cachar district. Promising not to harm the prospects of the Congress candidate, Haque claimed he had bright chances of sweeping the poll.

In the North Karimganj constituency, there are 48 per cent Muslims among 1,57,152 voters. Sitting BJP MLA and leader of the party's legislative
wing Ranjan Das is pitted against Kamalakhya Dev Purkayastha of Congress.

Das, sitting MLA of two years, claims to have served the people and bring local problems to be discussed on the floor of the state Assembly in his last two terms. He is also said to enjoy an edge over rival AIUDF's Abdul Mugtadif Choudhury, a former MLA and dissident Congress leader. Choudhury said on the prospect of Congress nominee Purkayastha that he "will leave no stone unturned to ensure his defeat."

The Patarkandi constituency, which has an electorate of 1,42,142, has approximately 42 per cent of Muslim voters. The front runners in the race are Congress nominee Manilal Gowala, Sukhendu Bikash Som of BJP and sitting MLA Kartik Sen Singha who is fighting as a AIUDF candidate after he was dropped from the BJP.

Singha hit headlines when he cross-voted for the Congress candidate in the Rajya Sabha election last year, prompting his suspension from the BJP. Sipra Das a local businessman ruled out any chance of Singha winning this time. "He had 'betrayed' the people when he voted for the Congress candidate," he said. The fight is expected to be confined to Gowala, Som and Moiunul Haque of the AGP, who is bound to get support from the minority community.

The Ratabari (SC) seat, regarded as a tea belt in the district, is the only one dominated by the tea garden community. Sitting Congress MLA Kripanath Malla, hailing from the tea garden community, has got a strong chance of winning over his AGP rival Moon Sarnakar and Nikhil Suklabaidya of the BJP here.

Infiltration-prone Karimganj district has a 93-kms border with Bangladesh of which about 20 kms is unmanned with no fencing at all. There are a total of 948 polling stations in the entire district of which 318 have been identified as highly sensitive.

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