Polling for Bodoland Territorial Council to take place in 2 phases next week
Ahead of assembly polls in the state due in March-April next year, political parties in Assam are battling it out in what has been billed as a semi-final to assume control of the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC).
Polling for the council, which administers the Bodoland Territorial Region covering Udalguri, Kokrajhar, Baksa and Chirang districts, will take place in two phases on Monday and Thursday. The votes will be counted on December 12.
Polling for 40 seats in the council, which comes under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, scheduled in April was postponed because of the Covid-19 pandemic and the area was placed under Governor’s rule.
Since its formation in 2003, BTC had been governed by Hagrama Mohilary, a former rebel who now heads the Bodoland Peoples’ Front (BPF), a partner in the ruling coalition headed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) is the third partner.
Relations between the BJP and BPF started souring after BTC was placed under Governor’s rule. Both parties are now contesting the BTC polls separately. BPF has fielded candidates in 37 seats while the BJP is contesting 26 and supporting independent candidates in the other seats.
The campaign has been bitter and personal with senior minister Himanta Biswa Sarma accusing Mohilary of large-scale corruption and the latter terming the former a bully.
“There’s lack of development in BTC areas due to misrule of BPF. The large crowds at our rallies indicate the BJP will come to power in BTC this time,” Sarma said at an election rally in Udalguri district on Saturday, the last day of campaigning for the first phase of polling.
“Sarma can be a bully in Dispur, but he has no say in BTC. We are coming back to power again and the BJP’s plan to rule BTC will fall flat,” Mohilary said at an election rally.
Apart from BJP and BPF, the opposition Congress and All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), which have a tie-up for the assembly polls, are contesting a total of 20 seats.
The other prime contenders are United People;s Party Liberal (UPPL), which is contesting all 40 seats, and the Gana Suraksha Party (GSP) of Kokrajhar MP Nava Sarania, which is fighting in 35 seats.
The BTC polls would be the first election in Assam since the Covid-19 pandemic started and the administrative and electoral machinery are geared to ensure smooth polling while maintaining all and health and safety protocols.
“There are 11 constituencies in our district and nearly 7 lakh voters. Polling parties have gone to their stations and security arrangements are in place for Monday’s voting. Face masks, sanitisers etc. have been provided to the poll officials and social distancing will be maintained during polling,” Ranjan Sarma, the deputy commissioner of Baksa district, said.