Manmohan Singh’s ‘no show’ dejects Assam voters

By Prasanta Mazumdar

GUWAHATI: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh dejected voters in Guwahati when he did not show up to cast his vote on Monday for the second and final phase of the Assam assembly polls.

Singh and his wife Gursharan Kaur were the 720th and the 721st voters ofpolling centre number 156 of Dispur assembly segment in Guwahati.

An estimated 70.35% of 96.77 lakh voters exercised their franchise on Monday.

Returning officer of Kamrup (Metro) district K Balaji said no application was received from the prime minister seeking a postal ballot.

“There was no request from him within the stipulated time. Therefore, there is no question of his exercising postal ballot,” Balaji said.

Singh has been representing Assam in the Rajya Sabha since 1991. He is officially a tenant of Hemoprava Saikia, widow of former Assam chief minister Hiteswar Saikia. However, he never stayed in the house.

The opposition has criticised the prime minister for giving a miss to his voting right.

“If he as the prime minister doesn’t cast his vote, his faith in democracy is questionable,” Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) leader Lachit Bordoloi said.

“His Rajya Sabha membership is based on a lie that he is a natural resident of Assam. Hence his prime ministership is also based on a lie,” BJP spokesman Pradyut Bora said.

Some voters of the polling centre where the PM was to have cast his vote said they were dejected to learn that Singh would not turn up.

The second phase of the polls was held in 64 constituencies spread across 14 districts in central and lower Assam. A total of 496 candidates, including 47 females, were in the fray. The first phase sealed the fate of 485 candidates, including 38 females.

Meanwhile, at least 22 people were injured and one of them hospitalised, as security forces baton-charged voters and fired in air twice to scare away a rampaging mob which torched a police vehicle in Rangiya constituency.

Incidents of violence were also reported from Mazbat, Sipajhar, Dhubri, Jagiroad and Samoguri.