A day ahead of the phase 1 Assam Assembly election, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday urged voters of the state to “vote wisely”.

Singh in a video appeal to the people of Assam also appealed to them to vote for a government that upholds the constitution and democracy.

88-year-old Singh was a Rajya Sabha member from Assam from 1991 to 2019, after which he was elected to the upper house of parliament from Rajasthan.

“For many years Assam has been my second home,” said the senior Congress leader, referring to what he called the “friendship” of former Chief Ministers Hiteshwar Saikia and Tarun Gogoi.

“The people of Assam enabled me to serve our country as Finance Minister of India for five years and as Prime Minister for 10 years. Today I am speaking as one of you. Once again the time has come for you to cast your ballot… You must vote wisely,” Dr Singh urged.

The Congress lost power in Assam in 2016 after 15 years as the BJP ousted the party’s government led by then Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi.

The people of Assam had endured terrible suffering through a long period of insurgency and unrest, said the former PM, and it was under the leadership of Tarun Gogoi in 2001-2016 that Assam made a “new beginning” towards peace and development.

“However it is now facing a very serious setback. Society is being divided on the basis of religion, culture and language. The basic rights of the common man are being denied. There is an atmosphere of tension and of fear.

“The ill-conceived notes ban and badly implemented GST (Goods and Services Tax) have weakened the economy,” said the former PM.

Lakhs of people and women had lost their livelihoods, youths were desperate for decent jobs, the rise in prices of fuel and cooking gas had made life difficult for the common man, “the poor are becoming poorer and COVID-19 is making matters much worse”, he said.

“You must vote for a government that upholds the constitution of India and the principles of democracy. You must vote for a government that will care for every citizen, for every community. You must vote for a government that will ensure inclusive growth.

You must vote for a government that will put Assam once again on the path of peace and development.”

He said the Congress was committed to protecting the unique language, culture and history of Assam.

Dr Singh went on to list the five promises in the Congress manifesto, which including not implementing the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), jobs for unemployed youth in the public and private sector, increasing the wages of tea plantation workers, free electricity of up to 200 units for every home and Rs 2,000 allowance for every housewife.

“Brothers and sisters. Your future and the future of your children is in your hands,” he said, appealing for votes for the Congress.

Assam will go to polls in three phases with polls due on March 27, April 1 and April 6.

Polling will begin at 7 am on Saturday in 47 constituencies across 12 districts in the first phase of the Assam Assembly elections.

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