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GUWAHATI: Over 78 percent of the 95 lakh electorate cast their ballot on Monday in the first round of assembly elections to pick 65 legislators in Assam, officials said.
Officials said 78.02 percent turnout was recorded till close of polling, but the percentage was likely to increase as reports were still coming in from some remote constituencies.
The turnout saw an increase from the 2011 assembly election figure, which was 75 percent. "The poll percentage is likely to increase as we are waiting for reports from some of the constituencies," said Additional Chief Electoral Officer Nitin Khade. Polling started on a brisk note at 7 a.m., as long queues of people started forming in front of the polling stations.
Officials said no violence was reported from anywhere during the first phase of the polls and balloting remained peaceful. A total of 64 Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) developed snags and were replaced. Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi seemed optimistic.
"Polling was good and it was due to the significant increase in the number of young voters. I am hopeful that the Congress will do well," Gogoi said. "I don't want to tell you any numbers now, but our seats will increase than in the 2011 elections," he added. Gogoi, who cast his ballot in his Titabar constituency, earlier urged people to vote in large numbers.
"The resilience of our democratic polity will be in evidence once again as people come out to exercise their right to vote," he told the media after casting his ballot. The BJP's chief ministerial candidate Sarbananda Sonowal also thanked the people for coming out in such large numbers to vote.
"People want change and that is why they have come out in huge numbers. The BJP is going to become the single largest party in the state," said Sonowal, who is seeking election from Majuli, the world's largest riverine island. The 65 constituencies which saw polling on Monday are mainly located in the tea belt, north of the Brahmaputra river and in the Barak Valley. These include three seats reserved for Dalits and 10 for tribals.
The second and final phase of elections to pick a 126-member assembly will take place on April 11.
Sonowal said the BJP would win a majority of the seats in the first phase. "We can see that people are craving for a change in the state. I hope they will vote for us for a change," he said outside a polling station at Gormur in Majuli. A total of 95,11,732 voters were eligible to decide the fate of 539 candidates in the first phase. There were 12,190 polling stations spread across 17 districts.
Of the total polling stations, 78 were staffed exclusively by women. There were also 134 'model' polling stations which had a medical team and an eatery, and where elderly voters were felicitated in a traditional manner.