The Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) elections may have given Hagrama Mohilary’s Bodoland People’s Front a third consecutive mandate to rule, but it is surely a hard-earned victory. Rather the results point to a churning process in BTAD areas that is still changing and evolving unpredictably. BPF supremo Mohilary had his back to the wall with some prominent Bodo leaders from ABSU, BPPF, NDFB(P) and UDPF coming together to challenge his rule under the banner of ‘Peoples Coordition of Democratic Rights’. That the PCDR maged to secure 7 seats compared to BPF’s 20 seats indicate the seriousness of this challenge. Mohilary’s laboured success in beating back the anti-incumbency factor shows that this third BTC election may have been more about the existential crisis facing local communities than about development and good governce. The BPF had swept the first and second BTC elections but its decade-long administration did not yield expected developmental fruits, while there have been allegations galore about graft and misrule. But the Bodo community in particular, and people from other communities too — seem to have given Mohilary the benefit of doubt, considering the limitations under which BTC administration has to run with Dispur doing its own bit of shady politicking. In the backdrop of uneasy relations between communities in the BTC, Mohilary may have convinced more voters about his capability to keep things somewhat together.
Even then, the BPF leadership now needs to introspect how the ruling party maged to secure only one seat out of 8 in Chirang district and 4 out of 12 seats in Kokrajhar district. It is small comfort for Mohilary that his party salvaged the situation with 9 out of 10 seats in Udalguri and 6 out of 10 seats in Baksa districts. Senior BPF leaders and BTC Executive members like Shobharam Basumatary, Mitharam Basumatary and Derhasat Basumatary bit the dust in these elections. However, faced with a looming demographic and electoral challenge in BTAD, the Bodo community has made its desire for a unified Bodo leadership known loud and clear. Hagrama Mohilary with his understanding and grip of BTAD politics, now stands the tallest among Bodo leaders. Among his prominent Bodo challengers, Rabiram rzary and Pradip rzary have lost in the hustings. Still top PCDR leaders like Urkhao Gwrwa Brahma and Rabiram rzary are the descendents of the same Bodoland movement of Late Upendra th Brahma as are Hagrama Mohilary and his senior BPF compatriots. In the aftermath of the BPF hat-trick, Mohilary has significantly tried to reach out to other communities by assuring that solving their problems will be his administration’s main objective.
One of the negative spin-offs of the Bodoland movement was the persecution of some other communities. The distrust and ill-will has festered over the years, with the 2012 BTAD riots one of its latest bloody manifestations. In the electoral context, this tug-of-war between Bodos versus non-Bodos resulted in ba Sarania winning the Kokrajhar Lok Sabha seat last year, supported by a rainbow non-Bodo coalition ‘Sanmilito Jonogosthiyo Oikya Manch’. The defeat of a powerful BPF leader like Chandan Brahma at Sarania’s hands had sent shock waves through the Bodo community. However, the non-Bodo coalition split later into ‘Sanmilito Jonogosthiyo Oikya Manch’ and ‘O-Boro Suraksha Samiti’, with the former putting up candidates for 32 seats and the latter contesting in 23 seats. Filly, the two non-Bodo coalitions together ended up with seven seats. It was ba Sarania who played the role of a spoiler by forming his own party ‘Ga Bikash Parishad’ and thereby splitting the ‘Sanmilito Jonogosthiyo Oikya Manch’. These splits and rivalries in the non-Bodo coalition doubtless yielded advantage to the BPF. The AIUDF’s satisfactory debut bears watching in this context, with its candidates winning 4 of the 8 seats contested. Will BTAD now witness the gradual consolidation of immigrant Muslim votes — away from the two non-Bodo coalitions into the folds of the AIUDF? If this happens, which way will the other non-Bodo, indigenous, ethnic groups move electorally? Will these groups further reorganise under either of the two existing non-Bodo coalitions, or gravitate to the BJP?
That the BJP has maged to put up a base in BTAD and open its account with a seat is also significant, particularly if its lone representative in BTC extends support to the BPF. Whether the BPF and BJP strike up some sort of understanding before the Assembly elections next year is the major point of speculation in political circles in the State. As for the Congress ruling in Dispur, the BTC elections are but the latest in a series of rude shocks. That the party drew a blank despite new PCC president Anjan Dutta’s bombastic exertions and Tarun Gogoi’s helicopter canvassing, does not bode well for the future. The Congress may yet rue its parting of ways with long-time ally BPF in the face of a rising AIUDF rapidly consolidating Muslim votes. The tried and tested strategy of the Congress in keeping each community separately dependent upon the party, may no longer be enough in 2016 State elections.