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Complicated BTC elections in the offing

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  17 Feb 2015 12:00 AM GMT

Of all the elections held in Bodoland Territorial Autonomous Districts (BTAD) area, the forthcoming elections to the council will certainly be the most complicated. Though the dates have not been formally announced, the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) elections are likely to be held in the first half of April. The 40 constituencies within BTAD are already in election mode, with some parties announcing their list of candidates. With Bodo as well as non-Bodo electorates becoming fractured, the political winds in BTAD bear watching. Events in the past year clearly indicate the political uncertainty Hagrama Mohilary’s ruling Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) is facing. After signing of the BTC accord on 10 February, 2003 with the then Atal Behari Vajpayee government at the Centre favourably disposed, Mohilary and his former Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT) colleagues got administrative control over a vast area stretching from Kokrajhar to Udalguri on Brahmaputra’s north bank. Despite misgivings, the non-Bodo peoples cooperated with the new dispensation fully, welcoming the transition to peace after the turbulent Nineties. That understanding seems to be unraveling of late.

The problem stems from the widespread perception that the Hagrama Mohilary regime failed in breaking down the wall of distrust between the Bodos and non-Bodos over the demand for a separate Bodoland. Despite the alliance with Congress in the 2006 and 2011 Assembly elections, the BPF administration could bring about little tangible development on the ground. Matters came to a head during the BTAD riots in 2012. Non-Bodo votes became consolidated under the banner of a united peoples forum ‘Xonmilito Jonogosthiyo Oikyomoncho’ in the Lok Sabha elections last year. The votes received by its winning candidate ba (Hira) Saraniya was 2 lakh more than the combined votes in favour of the BPF and BPPF candidates. With the political scales tipped against the Bodo electorate, the BPF’s estranged ally Congress has recently upped the ante. With a sizable votebank in BTAD, Congress leaders have for long been flexing muscles at Rajiv Bhawan, demanding to fight elections on their own. Now the divorce with BPF has emboldened the Congress to fancy its chances in the coming BTC elections.

The splintering of the Bodo votebank has compounded the problem for the BPF. The BPPF with leaders like Rabiram rzary and Urkhao Gwara Brahma, the ABSU led by Promod Bodo, the NDFB(P), the UDPF and the Peoples Coordition Committee for Democratic Rights are all vying for the Bodo vote. However, the non-Bodo electorate too has become fractured of late. The influence of the ‘Obodo Xurakhya Xamiti’ which had first challenged Hagrama Mohilary politically seems to be waning. Recently it announced its first list of 13 candidates, in an obvious bid to take an early lead in campaigning. The ‘Xonmilito Jonogosthiyo Oikyomoncho’ is likely to follow soon with its own list of candidates. Interestingly, ba Saraniya who was elected to the Lok Sabha as the candidate of this umbrella forum, seems to be charting a different path by floating a new party med ‘Gono Bikash Porishod, Axom’, though it is as yet unclear whether it will put up candidates for the BTC elections. With multi-cornered electoral battles a real possibility in most of the BTAD constituencies, this highly sensitive and vulnerable area is staring at an uncertain political future. This has far-reaching implications to maintaining peace and security in the region.

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