Efforts towards Bodo unification
The division in Bodo leadership has for long cast a pall on BTAD politics, particularly the fierce rivalry between Rabiram rzary and Hagrama Mohilary which goes back to the signing of the BTC accord in February 2003. The then Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT) chief Hagrama Mohilary had stolen the thunder for signing the accord, leaving in the sidelines the likes of Rabiram rzary who had led the All Bodo Students Union (ABSU). So the coming together of the two leaders will doubtless give a fillip to efforts to bring major Bodo leaders on the same platform in the light of changed political realities. After all, the defeat of powerful BPF leader Chandan Brahma in Kokrajhar parliamentary constituency in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections indicated which way the political winds were blowing. Former militant leader and independent candidate ba Sarania became the first non-Bodo to win this seat, that too by a whopping margin of 3.55 lakh. The consolidation of non-Bodo votes under platforms like ‘Sanmilita Jagosthiya Aikya Mancha’ and ‘Oboro Suraksha Samiti’ was a significant development, though it was not replicated in the 2015 elections to the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC). While Hagrama-led BPF maged to retain the 40-member BTC for the third time, seven seats were bagged by the newly-floated People’s Coordition for Democratic Rights (PCDR), formed by the ABSU, Rabiram rzary-led BPPF and UDPF and supported by some other ethnic groups. That the AIUDF too opened its account with four seats did not escape political observers; back in 2012, AIUDF supremo Badaruddin Ajmal’s demand to scrap the BTC accord and dissolve the council had raised the ire of a wide cross-section of Bodo leaders.
With the BPPF merging into BPF, Rabiram rzary gets the ticket to contest from the Kokrajhar West seat for the coming assembly elections. However, Hagrama Mohilary still has far to go to bring other prominent Bodo leaders on board, particularly ABSU president Promod Boro, United People’s Party (UPP) president Urkhao Gwra Brahma and NDFB-P leaders like Dhiren Boro and Gobinda Basumatary. The Bodoland tiol Council (BNC) along with the Bodo Sahitya Sabha has been trying for some time to bring all these Bodo leaders on a common platform, but differences persist. The ABSU, NDFB-P and ‘Peoples Joint Action Committee for Bodoland Movement’ (PJACBM) are also staking out a separate bargaining position with the demand for a separate Bodoland state. These three organisations are reportedly planning to raise this demand strongly during Prime Minister rendra Modi’s visit to Kokrajhar on Tuesday. After sewing up an alliance with the BPF on Monday, it remains to be seen how the BJP’s tiol leadership negotiate this demand of other Bodo leaders, what with the party’s stated position of supporting creation of smaller states to bring about faster development. But Hagrama Mohilary throwing in his lot with the BJP represents a huge shift in alliance politics in the State. The BPF will contest in the 16 seats falling within Bodoland Territorial Area Districts (BTAD), while supporting the BJP in 12 other Bodo-domited assembly seats. The BPF has also claimed sizeable influence in districts like Darrang, Lakhimpur, Dhemaji, gaon, Morigaon and the two Kamrup districts.
That this alliance has rattled the Congress in Assam is borne out by Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi doing his best to belittle Modi’s programme to address a BPF rally at Bodofa gar, where he is expected to announce a slew of goodies for BTC including a fincial package of at least Rs 1,000 crore annually for 3-5 years. While the BJP is projecting its alliance with the BPF as the beginning of a move to unite all indigenous communities in the State, the reality is more fragmented. Hagrama Mohilary has shrewdly leveraged his position as chairman of the tribal unity platform ‘United People’s Front’ floated last August. But other UPF constituents like the Hills State Demand Committee, Gashakti Assam and Rabha Hasong Joutha Sangram Samiti are keeping their cards close to the chest as their political agendas are different. If Hagrama Mohilary and other Bodo leaders do mage to join hands, they will have a huge challenge on their hands to satisfy the aspirations of different communities within BTAD, particularly the problems of land rights, safeguarding cultural-linguistic identities and bringing about socio-economic development while maging population areas in this highly sensitive region.