Top contests of Assam polls 2016: Sarbananda Sonowal vs Rajiv Lochan Pegu
One of the high-profile contests of this year's Assam election will be held in Majuli on April 11. Here, the BJP's chief ministerial candidate Sarbananda Sonowal, a central minister, will take on three-time Congress MLA Rajiv Lochan Pegu in an election which the saffron party is predicted to dominate.
Date of polling:
Majuli, a seat reserved for the Scheduled Tribes and located in Jorhat district, will go to the polls on April 11 (Monday) when the second and the final phase of the Assembly election will be held in Assam. The result will be declared on May 19.
2011 election result:
Congress's Pegu beat Independent Padmeswar Doley by 15,964 votes. Pegu's vote-share was 46.4 per cent in a contest which had four candidates. The BJP's Anamika Doley received 2,500 votes and a vote-share of 2.9 per cent. Pegu, in fact, beat Pademeswar in the 2001 and 2006 elections as well.
Sarbananda Sonowal (BJP)
Sonowal, 53, who represents Lakhimpur parliamentary constituency (under which Majuli segment comes) in the Lok Sabha, had polled nearly 47,000 votes with lead of 27,000 over the Congress.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi became the first PM to visit Majuli in March, a riverine island in the Bramaputra river with a population of 1,53,362 and home to several tribes, shows how much importance the BJP has put on the place which has been a Congress stronghold but suffered from serious problem like erosion. It was under Sonowal's leadership that the BJP won 14 Lok Sabha seats in Assam in 2014.
He is also the president of Assam BJP and played an instrumental role in forging alliance between the BJP, Asom Gana Parishad and the Bodoland People's Front for this election.
The BJP is focussing on the idea of development in its plan on Majuli (it vows to make Majuli a global tourist hub) and is looking to cash in on the 47,000 non-tribal and 24,000 SC voters to overcome the fact that Sonowal doesn't belong to the Mising tribes who have traditionally dominated this seat. Sonowal belongs to the Sonowal Kachari tribe and is from Dibrugarh.
Rajiv Lochan Pegu (Congress)
Fifty-six-year-old Rajiv Lochan Pegu has won from Majuli for three consecutive terms and will face a strong anti-incumbency this year. Pegu is a Mishing and in a constituency of 1.14 lakh electorate that features 43,000 Mishing voters, he might look to be on a strong wicket. But on the ground, the conclusion could be far more than foregone. There are two more candidates here from the same community who could make dents into Pegu's chances and help the BJP in the final outcome.
The rise of the Sanmalita Ganashakti, an ethnically and politically assertive outfit popular among the Mishing people (it swept the Mishing Autonomous Council election of 2013) is something that will leave Pegu concerned. Another factor that could take the results against Pegu is his failure to build a much-needed bridge to connect Majuli with Jorhat, the district headquarters, in 15 years.
Sonowal's candidature and the heavy anti-incumbency against the Tarun Gogoi government in Assam makes the BJP favourites to win the Majuli constituency for the first time since 1962. Pegu might have won three straight terms but this election is a unique one in the history of the north-eastern state with the BJP posing a serious threat to the establishment.
Sonowal 75% Pegu 25%