Heavy turnout was recorded in the first phase of assembly elections with Assam recording over 78 per cent turnout in the 65 seats that went to polls and West Bengal's 18 seats spread over Jangalmahal witnessing over 81 per cent polling. Election Commission (EC) said the polling passed off peacefully in both the states.
In Assam, the turnout was 2% more than in 2011. Election Commission officials said the poll percentage might go up further and could touch the 80% mark once the final reports from remote areas arrive. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, when BJP won seven of the 14 LS seats, the turnout was 80.1%.
Polling, which was initially low because of morning rain, picked up momentum around fore noon. Braving inclement weather, voters turned up in big numbers in the Barak Valley and the hill district of Dima Hasao. Since morning, women in colourful traditional attire queued up before polling booths.
Chief minister Tarun Gogoi, BJP's CM candidate Sarbananda Sonowal, former Union minister Paban Singh Ghatowar and Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) chief Atul Bora are among the 539 candidates whose fate will be decided in the first phase.
Political parties had different interpretations for the high turnout. In Guwahati, Congress supporters began early celebrations by bursting crackers for hours after polling came to an end. Forty-five of the 65 seats are in upper Assam, known as the Ahom heartland. Gogoi, an Ahom, has projected the fight as the Battle of Saraighat in which the Ahoms had defeated the Mughal Army in the late 17th century. Two days ago, he had described Prime Minister Narendra Modi as `a Mughal invader'.