With the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) elections just days away, the ruling Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) — which has been in power since 2003 — is facing a tough challenge from no other than its ally, the BJP. Key leaders of the BPF have deserted the party to join the saffron camp. The BJP has, meanwhile, gone all out against its own alliance partner and has challenged the BPF, saying that the Council will have a BJP man as its chief post the elections.
The election will be held in two phases — on December 7 and 10. The counting will take place on December 12.
Established in 2003, the Bodoland Territorial Council is an autonomous district council that goes to polls every five years. The BPF, led by Hagrama Mohilary, has been ruling the BTC for the past 17 years. At present, the BPF is a partner of the BJP-led alliance in the Assam government. The Council was created in 2003 after the second Bodo accord was signed with the militant outfit Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT), and this led to the formation of the Council covering four districts in the state — Kokrajhar, Chirang, Baksa and Udalguri.
Flirting with Congress and BJP
The BPF had also shared power with the Congress in the state from 2006-2015, before joining hands with the BJP as an alliance partner.
The BJP was a marginal player till the last BTC election in 2015, winning only one out of the 40 seats. Thereafter, the BPF joined hands with the BJP in forming an alliance, which included AGP, a regional party. The alliance managed to win 86 out of the 126 Assembly seats. The BPF could win all the 12 Assembly seats it had contested from in the BTC region.
The political bonhomie between the BJP and BPF didn’t last long as the BJP started encroaching upon the space of its ally by announcing that it will contest the BTC election solo. The BJP has accused the BPF government of rampant corruption and misappropriation of funds worth crores of rupees.
The relationship further strained after several key leaders of the BPF deserted the party to join the BJP. Biswajit Daimary, Rajya Sabha MP and working president of the BPF, along with Emannual Mushahary, MLA and senior leader of the party, joined the BJP recently.
Besides, several senior party leaders, including former Lok Sabha MP Sansuma Khunggur Bwiswmuthiary, have also quit the party and are likely to join the saffron outfit.
Mohilary has accused the BJP of attempting to finish off regional political parties.
BJP — from piggy-riding to becoming the big brother
On November 17, Himanta Biswa Sarma, Assam finance minister and key strategist of the BJP in the North East, hinted that the party is not eager to continue with the BPF as an alliance partner in the 2021 Assam Assembly election slated to be held in April next year. Sarma said the BJP will contest the polls on its own.
In 2011, the BJP couldn’t win any of the Assembly seats in the BTC region.
The BJP has, meanwhile, opened the floodgates for defection from the BPF. Sarma has said that many influential BPF leaders, who were denied party tickets, are likely to join the BJP in the days to come.
The BPF chief has urged the BJP to follow the alliance dharma. “We are a small party and the BJP is our big brother. We followed the alliance dharma and offered two seats to the BJP and one to the AGP to contest from, but the BJP has announced that it is contesting without us,” Mohilary said at an interaction with newspersons at Kokrajhar.
Cutting down Mohilary’s influence
With the BPF facing a tough challenge in the council elections and the BJP hinting that it will not renew alliance post this term, the BPF chief’s influence has taken a major hit.
The BPF chief first showed signs of dissidence when the third Bodo accord was signed on January 27 and subsequently a new and powerful political outfit emerged in the BTC region, while earlier the BPF was the only major political outfit.
The accord was signed by the four factions of the militant outfit National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), the All Bodo Students Union (ABSU) and United Bodo People’s Organization (UBPO).
The NDFB was the rival militant outfit of the erstwhile BLT, and it didn’t come ahead to join the mainstream in 2003 during the signing of the second Bodo accord, but subsequently expressed willingness to join the mainstream.
With these groups and the ABSU backing the UPPL — a regional political party — in the BTC region, it has emerged as a strong challenger to the BPF, and the subsequent warming up of the BJP to this new political group further strained the BFP-BJP relationship.
Mohilary received a major jolt after seeing the growing bonhomie between the BJP and UPPL, and having realised that the UPPL could be BJP’s next choice as an ally.
Speaking to this reporter over phone, Urkhao Brahma, former UPPL president and ex-Rajya Sabha MP, said that his party is open to an alliance with the BJP.
Citing the third Bodo accord, the veteran politician said that for effective implementation of all the clauses in the accord, the BJP should work hand in hand with all the other signatories.
Though Mohilary himself had signed the accord as a witness and had earlier appealed to the Union government for a peace pact with the NDFB, he started criticising the pact shortly afterwards.
“The new accord just changes the name of Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) to Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR) and gives us nothing. We can’t accept this accord,” Mohilary had said about the accord.
Meanwhile, speaking to this reporter over phone, UPPL president and former ABSU president Pramod Boro expressed confidence that his party will be able to form the council in the BTC. On being asked whether his party was open to an alliance with the BJP if required, Boro said that such decisions will be taken at the appropriate time.
“We are confident of a change of government in the BTC and it is important to ensure that the massive corruption and misuse of political position in the BTC council is stopped,” said Boro.