Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday appealed to the people of Assam to vote wisely so that the state gets a government that upholds the Constitution and democratic values. His request came a day before the first round of voting for Assembly elections in the state.

Singh said in a video message that the people of Assam suffered through a long period of insurgency and unrest, but began moving towards peace and development under Tarun Gogoi’s leadership.

The former prime minister added that Assam was again facing a serious setback. “Society is being divided on the basis of religion, culture and language,” Singh said. “The basic rights of the common man are being denied. There is an atmosphere of tension and of fear. The ill-conceived ‘notebandi’ [notes ban] and badly implemented GST have weakened the economy.”

Singh added that the lack of jobs and the increase in prices of cooking gas and fuel were making life difficult for the people. He added that the coronavirus crisis was making the situation worse.

The former prime minister urged the people to vote for a government that would care for every citizen and every community. “You must vote for a government that will ensure inclusive growth,” Singh added. “You must vote for a government that will once again put Assam on the path of peace and development.”

Singh said that Congress was committed to the protection of Assam’s language, culture and history. He described the party’s election promises as “practical”. These include not implementing the Citizenship Amendment Act, jobs for young people and a monthly income of Rs 2,000 to homemakers.

Singh, who represented Assam in the Rajya Sabha from 1991 to 2019, said the state was his second home. “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,” he said. “Today I am speaking as one of you.”

Voting in Assam will take place in three phases on March 27, April 1 and April 6. The votes will be counted on May 2.

The BJP is fighting to retain power in the state and has been campaigning aggressively for it. It had defeated the Congress in Assam for the first time in 2016. The Congress has tied up with five parties –the All India United Democratic Front, the Communist Party of India, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the Communist Party of India (Marxist Leninist) Liberation, and the Anchalik Gana Marcha.