The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Assam, which on Friday announced its first list of 70 candidates for the first two phases of Assembly elections in the state, has given tickets to two former Congress ministers, 11 new faces and three Muslim candidates.

Former Congress ministers Ajanta Neog and Gautam Roy got BJP tickets to contest from their old seats of Golaghat and Katighora, respectively. Neog and Gowala had joined the saffron party in December last year.

Former Congress legislator Rajdeep Gowala, who was elected to the Assembly after winning in the 2016 elections from Lakhipur, has been denied a ticket by the BJP this time.

Deputy Speaker Aminul Haq Laskar, Kojrujaman Jinnah and Nazir Hussain are the three Muslim candidates in the first list of 70 nominees. Laskar would contest from his old seat Sonai while Jinnah and Hussain would fight from Lahorighat and Rupohihat, respectively.

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BJP first list for Assam

Besides Neog, Surabhi Rajkonwar from Sibsagar, Nandita Garlosa from Haflong (ST) and Angoorlata Deka from Batadrova are the other women candidates in the BJP first list.

Among the top BJP leaders, state unit chief Ranjeet Kumar Dass, who was earlier elected to the Assembly from Sorbhog, has been nominated to contest from Patacharkuchi this time.

Senior minister and BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma said that Dass has been shifted to a new constituency following demand from the party workers.

The 126-member Assam Assembly will go to the polls in three phases on March 27 (47 seats), April 1 (39 seats) and April 6 (40 seats). The results will be declared on May 2.

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Prime Minister Narendra ModiIANS

BJP national General Secretary Arun Singh told the media that of the 126 seats in Assam, the saffron party would contest in 92 seats, giving 26 seats to the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and 8 seats to the United People's Party Liberal (UPPL).

Sarma, the convener of the BJP-backed regional body Northeast Democratic Alliance (NEDA), said that one seat will be contested by the Rabha Joutho Mancha, but under the BJP symbol.

A total of 11 sitting legislators have been dropped from the BJP first list, from Silchar, Howraghat, Katigora, Diphu, Baithalangso, Lahowal, Bihpuria, Sonari, Nalbari, Halflong and Barkhola.

In another significant development, the AGP has dropped one of the founding leaders of the party and former president Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, a two-time Chief Minister who has been elected to the Assembly since 1985. BJP candidate Jitu Goswami would contest from Mahanta's seat in Barhampur.

According to party sources, Mahanta, who had opposed the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, is now in touch with some opposition parties.

In another turn of events, BJP leader from Golaghat, Bitupon Saikia, and youth leader Padmalochan Doley have joined the Congress in Assam, according to media reports.

The latest development emerged on Friday evening when the BJP was finalizing the list of candidates in Delhi.

Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal will contest from Majuli (ST), while Sarma has been fielded from Jalukbari, constituencies from where they had won the last time.

(With inputs from IANS)