The general election in India will see the first phase of voting on Monday in a state - possibly the only state - from which the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) has high hopes. Five constituencies in Assam and one of the two constituencies in Tripura will go to polls on Monday.
The Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Trinamool Congress, the All India Democratic Front (AIUDF), the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the Socialist Unity Centre of India (SUCI), Communist Party of India (Marxist), the All India Forward Bloc (AIFB) and the Samajwadi Party (SP) are contesting on the five seats of Tezpur, Koliabor, Jorhat, Dibrugarh and Lakhimpur in the Congress-ruled state.
Among the 51 candidates are Union ministers Ranee Narah and Paban Singh Ghatowar, former Union minister and sitting member of the Legislative Assembly Bijoy Krishna Handique, chief minister Tarun Gogoi's son Gourav Gogoi and Bhupen Kumar Bora for the Congress.
Unlike in the past, neither factions of the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), pro or anti-talks, have issued diktats to the voters to boycott the elections or made any statement against any political party.
Assam has been left relatively untouched by the Congress' experiments in democracy. The Koliabor seat was held by Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi's brother, Dip. It is now the CM's son Gourav who is contesting. Kaliabor has been held by the Congress for 25 years, except in 1985 and 1996 when Tarun Gogoi was defeated by Bhadreswar Tati (Independent) and Keshav Mahanta (AGP). Earlier, Bedabrata Barua (Congress) won the seat in 1967, 1971 and 1977, while Tarun Gogoi retained it in 1991, 1998 and 1999. Thereafter, his brother Dip Gogoi got elected from Kaliabor in 2004 and 2009.
The recent Lokniti, CSDS-IBN-National Election Tracker pre-poll survey indicates although preference for the Congress in the state has diminished at 44 per cent compared to the January 2014 figure at 47 per cent, the party is still ahead of its closest rival, BJP, which got only 19 per cent. The near-demolition of the regional outfit AGP under former chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta and the weak organisational structure of BJP have left the field open for the Congress to thrive. The position of BJP and AGP is so poor that even if the two had combined, they could not have dented the Congress much.
The depth in the Congress outreach, particularly in the rural areas of the state, is likely to be the critical factor in cementing its supremacy.