Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday urged the Assam voters to give the Congress another chance to carry forward the development work initiated by the Tarun Gogoi-led government in the past 10 years.
A 12-hour bandh, called by the Paresh Barua-led faction of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) to oppose the Prime Minister's visit, affected life in the State, but failed to impact the Prime Minister's rallies at Dhakuakhana in Lakhimpur district and Juria in central Assam's Nagaon district.
Addressing the rally at Dhakuakhana, Dr. Singh urged the people not to be misled by the propaganda of the Opposition Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). In his speech at the Juria rally, he said his party was committed to the development of minorities, focussing on providing them with better education and healthcare.
“When the Congress government took office in 2001, the State's economy was a shambles. We had to really work hard to bring back Assam to a stage where we can proudly claim it is on the right track now,” he said. During the AGP regime, there was hardly any development work worth the name and the law and order was precarious.
In his speech, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi promised more development projects if the Congress was given the mandate for the third consecutive term.
The campaign for the first phase of polling, scheduled for April 4, ended on Saturday. Altogether, 485 candidates, including 38 women, are in the fray for 62 Assembly seats that go to the polls on Monday. Prominent among those whose fate will be sealed in the first phase are Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, Industries and Commerce Minister Pradyut Bordoloi, Excise Minister Gautom Roy, the former Transport Ministers, Anjan Dutta of the Congress, and Pradip Hazarika of the AGP, BJP State president Ranjit Dutta, Speaker Tanka Bahadur Rai, Deputy Speaker Pranati Phukan, the senior AGP leader and former Education Minister, Brindaban Goswami, and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Bharat Narah.
A battery of star campaigners of the BJP, including the former Deputy Prime Minister, L.K. Advani, party president Nitin Gadkari, Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj, Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi spearheaded a vigorous campaign in both the Barak and Brahmaputra valleys, urging the people to oust “the corrupt Congress government” and showcased the “good governance” in the BJP-ruled States.
AGP president Chandra Mohan Patowary and Leader of the Opposition and the former Chief Minister, Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, harped on “corruption during the past 10 years of the Congress rule,” appealing to the voters to defeat the Congress and bring back the regional party to power.
Apart from the Prime Minister, the Congress roped in party president Sonia Gandhi, Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and the former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, Digvijay Singh, to counter the high-voltage Opposition campaign by showcasing the “development and return of peace over the past 10 years of the Congress rule.”