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Explained: Why are the results of local elections in Assam significant for BJP?

The results of the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) and the Tiwa Autonomous Council (TAC) polls are said to be the harbinger of political trends ahead of the state elections next year.

Written by Abhishek Saha , Edited by Explained Desk | Guwahati |
Updated: December 30, 2020 2:56:35 pm
Union Home Minister Amit Shah with Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal (L) in New Delhi in Aug 2019. (Express Photo Renuka Puri)

In comparison to their performance earlier, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has made remarkable gains in two important local council polls in Assam this month. The results of the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) and the Tiwa Autonomous Council (TAC) polls are said to be the harbinger of political trends ahead of the state elections next year.

What are these two Councils?

The BTC, an autonomous, self-governing body under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, is made up of Kokrajhar, Baksa, Udalguri and Chirang districts. Elections to 40 seats of the BTC were held on December 7 and 10.

The TAC is a Statutory Autonomous Council constituted under the State Act and comprises parts of Kamrup (Metro), Morigaon, Nagaon and Hojai districts. The polls to the 36-membered TAC were held on December 17.

Such Councils have powers to make laws in their jurisdiction areas on a variety of subjects and are aimed towards accelerating welfare and developmental activities of Scheduled Tribe communities in the state.

How does this year’s results compare with that of the previous election?

In the 2015 BTC elections, the Bodo People’s Front (BPF) won 20 seats and came to power, and the BJP got only one seat. The BPF is an ally of the BJP in the state government. This year, the BPF won 17 seats — the highest number of seats won by a party individually. But the BJP did not ally with the BPF, against which it had campaigned vociferously, and went ahead to form the ruling alliance with the United People’s Party Liberal (UPPL).

In the TAC, the Congress had won 15 in 2015, while the BJP won only three and the AGP, two. This time, the BJP swept the TAC polls by winning 33 seats, while the Congress won one and the AGP, which is an ally of the BJP in the state government, won two seats.

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Baksa: Supporters of United People’s Party Liberal (UPPL) celebrate after forming their government in an alliance with Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) in Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR), at Kathalbari in Baksa district of Assam (PTI)

What is the significance of the two results?

The BTC results signal the BJP’s arrival in the Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR) — from one seat last time to nine this time. Also, the Bodo accord to usher in a new era of peace and development in strife-torn BTR, signed earlier this year, seems to have reaped political gains for the BJP. Whether the BTC results mark the beginning of the political end of BPF chief Hagrama Mohilary, who is an influential Bodo politician, and how the UPPL -BJP alliance fares in the state elections next year remain to be seen.

The elections to the TAC, too, were significant for the BJP — going from three last time, to 33 this year. Ranjit Dass, state BJP president, told The Indian Express, that it was “an important victory”. But although the BJP won only three the last time, it had wielded influence over the Council: the former Chief Executive Member (CEM) Paban Manta is now a BJP member. The CEM before Manta, Ramakanta Deuri, is now a BJP MLA.

Earlier in 2020, the BJP faced intense backlash in Assam for implementing the Citizenship (Amendment) Act. Several influential groups and political parties hold the Act to be detrimental to the interests of the indigenous communities of Assam. The two victories signify how the BJP has managed to sway voters in these areas despite such opposition.

BJP leaders and supporters celebrate their victory during counting day of Tiwa Autonomous Council (TAC) elections in Nagaon district (PTI)

What do the results mean for Congress?

The two Council polls results indicate a difficult phase for the Congress. Sajal Kumar Sinha, the lone Congress winner in the BTC elections, has joined the BJP. The party has one seat in the TAC polls.

The results have come on the heels of the demise of veteran Assam Congress leader and three-time chief minister Tarun Gogoi. For the upcoming state elections, the Congress plans to form a grand alliance against the BJP. It has tied up with the AIUDF, led by MP and perfume baron Badruddin Ajmal.

But there is also a speculation that several Congress leaders might move to the BJP. One of the names doing the rounds in the state in this regard is that of Ajanta Neog, the Congress MLA from Golaghat. The Congress has removed Neog, a former minister, from a key organisational position.

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