TANGLA: With dark clouds of uncertainty looming large over the fate of the BTC poll which was deferred indefinitely, there have been widespread speculations that the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC), encompassing the four districts of Kokrajhar, Chirang, Baksa and Udalguri, may witness a political disarray and come under President’s Rule to be administered by the Governor after expiry of the five-year term of the present Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) government on April 27.
The BTC polls, which were earlier scheduled to be held on April 4, were indefinitely postponed by the State Election Commission due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. President of the United People’s Party Liberal (UPPL), Pramod Boro, while responding to the development, said that coronavirus pandemic was an issue of ‘national importance’ and in these trying times it was not feasible to hold the BTC polls.
“Elections is not a priority, but saving lives is,” Boro said, adding that the fight against the COVID-19 was the primary goal. Assam Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) president Ripun Bora dashed off a letter to Assam Governor Jagdish Mukhi on April 10, exhorting him to take over the charge of the administration of the Bodo belt post April 27 and ‘preserve the sanctity of the Constitution.”
Bora, anticipating that the Assam Government might suggest the Governor for extending the term of the council by six months under the provision of Para 2 (6) A of the 6th Schedule, stated that as per opinion of legal experts, such power could only be used at a stage before the declaration of the polls but having exhausted the option, the BTC council had virtually turned into ‘caretaker council’.
Earlier, echoing similar concerns, Kokrajhar Lok Sabha MP Naba Kumar Sarania, who also heads the Gana Suraksha Party (GSP) which is backing independent candidates in the BTC polls, had written letters to Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and the Assam Governor on April 7.
Sarania in his letter to Governor Mukhi stated that there was least chance that the BTC polls would be held before April 27 amidst the lockdown and coronavirus pandemic and in such circumstances, he exhorted the Governor to take over the charge of the administration. He also asserted that under no circumstance should the present tenure of the BPF-led government be extended as this would not be a ‘good sign’ and send a wrong message to the stakeholders of various Bodo and non-Bodo communities.
“The postponement was necessary because of an unprecedented global situation. Health consideration of the people must be the topmost priority of the government and holding elections at this moment will be detrimental for public health as well as the right to vote,” said political analyst Zakir Hussain.
Under Article 356 of the Constitution, if elections are postponed for unavoidable reasons like war, epidemic or natural disaster, the Governor may issue a proclamation after obtaining the consent of the President, wherein the executive authority is exercised through the Governor, who has the authority to appoint other administrators to assist him. The administrators are usually non-partisan retired civil servants.