The outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) could resort to violence ahead of the upcoming general elections in Assam although the outfit would not be able to influence the polls like it did in the past, says leaders of the pro-talk faction of the rebel group.
"The ULFA has the capacity to resort to acts of sabotage and violence during the polls and would probably demonstrate their strength during the elections," Mrinal Hazarika, president of the pro-talk ULFA faction, told IANS.
Two potent striking units of the ULFA's 28th battalion, the Alpha and the Charlie companies, declared a unilateral ceasefire in June last year and showed interest in peace talks. Hazarika was commander of the two units before they declared the ceasefire.
"The ULFA now do not have the mass support as it enjoyed a few years ago and hence would not be able to influence the upcoming elections in any way. I would say ULFA on Wednesday enjoys the support of just five to six percent of the people of Assam," said Jiten Dutta, another senior pro-talk ULFA leader.
The two rebel leaders claimed the ULFA did support or helped political parties in winning elections in Assam since 1991.
"In the 1996 elections, we targeted Congress leaders and supporters and created a wave for the AGP (Asom Gana Parishad) and helped the regional party win the polls," Dutta said.
"At that point, they (AGP) accepted our help and never denounced our attacks. In other words, ULFA did influence elections either directly or indirectly," he added.
"I would say since the 1991 elections in Assam, all political parties used the ULFA issue to its advantage. The ULFA issue remained an integral part of Assam till say about two to three years ago," Hazarika said.
The two pro-talk ULFA leaders said the outfit's support base waned and people started rejecting the group after a series of attacks and explosions carried out in crowded areas targeting innocent civilians.
"When attacks took place in markets and towns where civilians were killed, the ULFA's image sank and they lost the people's support," Hazarika said.