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Home to politics, candidate promises ‘change’

Border dist residents hinge on ‘leaders’ for progress

Saurav Bora

GUWAHATI: For Pratima Rabha, a gaon panchayat president candidate from Goalpara district, a victory in the rural poll offers her two opportunities – to serve people and carry forward a legacy started by her grandfather.

The 34-year-old homemaker is making her debut as a political representative from AIUDF (All India United Democratic Front) in 44 Number Baladmari GP, where about 80 per cent of the voters belong to the Muslim community.

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“I have always been interested in social work, and for a backward area like ours, nothing else but development matters. We have ten units and most of the roads are dilapidated. Drinking water too is a problem. So if I become the GP (gaon panchayat) president, my priority would be to cater to these two basic needs,” Pratima told The Shillong Times over phone after casting her vote at the Karbala LP School polling centre in East Goalpara on Sunday morning.

A homemaker who has been motivated by her grandfather, Khublong Rabha’s work to take up the political mantle, Pratima went on to add, “He was the first GP president of Baladmari GP and having heard about his zeal for social work, I wanted to do something similar for the villagers as they have been deprived of basic amenities for long.”

On the choice of party, the resident of Bhalukdubi Gobindapur,  about 147km west of Guwahati, said, “The party was only a medium for me to do something for the people. There was no choice as such. But it is how the candidate relates to people and vice versa is what matters in rural polls and most of them know me.”

There is indeed hope and zeal among candidates across the district, which shares a border with Meghalaya, and the general preference among the electorate apparently is the candidate and not the party.

In minority-dominated Baladmari GP, however, all the candidates for the four posts have been reserved for Scheduled Tribe category.

“I am certainly looking at the candidate who can bring about development. We need good roads, electricity and water,” said Abdul Gani Mullah, a small-time trader, who left home to the polling centre a little before 7am.

However, land has been a pressing issue in areas under the panchayat with reportedly about 80 per cent of the residents not having any ownership of land.

“Only 20 per cent are myadi patta (permanent land settlement) land while the rest is occupied by others. So, we want land ownership,” Mullah, 50, a resident of Hasinabeel No 2 unit, told this correspondent over phone.

Apart from Bengali-speaking Muslims who are majority in terms of population at Baladmari GP, there is a relatively smaller Garo and Rabha population as well.

Meanwhile, the polling percentage in most centres in the second phase was healthy, albeit tardy, given that four candidates had to be chosen by the voters. About 40 per cent polling was reported from some of the centres in Goalpara by noon with queues to the booths becoming longer as the day matured.

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