GUWAHATI: Traffic came to a halt in the city on the last day of filing of nominations as about 25,000 supporters of BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma took out a 4km rally on Friday. Sarma filed his nomination at the Kamrup (metro) deputy commissioner’s office, but the three-hour jam severely inconvenienced the general public.
Sarma began his day by offering prayers at Doul Govinda Temple in north Guwahati and Kamakhya Temple. The rally, perhaps the biggest so far in this election, began at 12.05pm from Sonaram Higher Secondary School playground at Bharalumukh and went all the way up to the DC office. Sarma filed his nomination for Jalukbari constituency at 2.30pm as advised by his priest. He was accompanied by his mother Mrinalini Devi, wife Riniki Bhuyan and son Nandil.
Also giving him company were chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal, Manipur CM N Biren Singh, BJP national general secretary Dilip Saikia and Union minister Narendra Singh Tomar. Sarma has been winning non-stop from Jalukbari since 2001.
For this rally, 300 privately owned city buses were requisitioned, which affected commuters, mainly college students.
“There are 650 privately-owned city buses, of which about 150-200 have been running in the city since campaigning started. Very few were available on Friday,” said Pradip Das, general secretary of the All Assam Motor Transport Association.
Traffic diversions were put in place on both Thursday and Friday because of the nominations. Due to this, students of Cotton University whose semester examinations are on, have had to reach much earlier. Thursday was the last day of the 3rd and 5th semester undergraduate exams and 3rd semester postgraduate exams.
But the most affected were patients. Ambulances got stuck in the congestion caused by the BJP rally on Friday. “Two ambulances got stuck near Fancy Bazar due to the rally. If something unwanted happens to the patients, who will take responsibility? Will Himanta Biswa Sarma or the district administration take responsibility?” a commuter said.
He was himself stuck for two hours on Friday. “Sarma may have huge support, but what is more important: lives of patients or his filing of nomination?”
Sarma’s supporters went over two layers of barricades installed about 500 metres from the DC office and shouted slogans, which wasn’t allowed. Police chased them away later.
Some supporters later told TOI that Sarma is like a guardian of the constituency. “There is no such leader who can think of defeating him. He is more than a leader,” said Sajidur Rahman, a resident of Roumari village. “The rally has not been taken out to urge people to vote for him. He doesn’t need such rallies. It is people’s love and affection for him that made them join him in large numbers.”
Another supporter, Nripen Das, had painted his face to show loyalty to Sarma. “I am even ready to sacrifice my life for him. He is our beloved guardian,” Das, a resident of Sualkuchi, said.