SILCHAR: With bypoll to the Ratabari (SC) seat set to be held on Monday, political observers have said that apart from the Bengali Hindus, voters belonging to tea tribe community and minorities will have an important role to play in deciding the fate of candidates.
Those who have campaigned at Ratabari include senior leaders of both Congress and BJP, including chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal , minister of finance and health Himanta Biswa Sharma, BJP state president Ranjeet Kumar Dass, Congress state president Ripun Bora, party's legislative party leader Debabrata Saikia and former minister Rockybul Hussain.
Ratabari has four candidates. Besides BJP's Bijay Malakar and Keshav Rajak of the Congress, SUCI (C) has fielded Birendra Rabidas while Parikshit Roy is contesting as an Independent.
Sources said that the Ratabari assembly segment, which has been reserved for scheduled caste candidates since 1978, has been a traditional battleground of the BJP and the Congress over past nearly three decades. Since 2091, BJP candidates won four times (1991, 1996, 2006 and 2016) from Ratabari, Congress twice (2003 and 2011) and an Independent candidate won in 2001.
Ratabari has a total of 164,312 electors, including 85,823 male and 78,489 female voters. Out of 202 polling stations, authorities have declared six polling stations as 'critical' and 196 as 'safe. Counting will be held at Karimganj College on October 24.
Ratabari is a prestige fight for the BJP, with the seat having fallen vacant after incumbent Kripanath Mallah won the last parliamentary election as a BJP nominee. BJP is hopeful that it will retain the seat this time too despite the fact that the final National Register of Citizens (NRC) left out the names of over 19 lakh people, majority of who are Bengalis.
However, during the campaign trail, neither issues of NRC nor Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 were at the forefront. Most leaders while campaigning chose to focus instead on development. Leaders, including the chief minister, announced plans to develop the Son Beel of Ratabari, the largest sweet water body in Asia, as a tourist destination, besides promising the development of the tea tribe community and road communication.