Polling for the first phase of the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) elections in Assam passed off peacefully on Monday, with the state election commission putting the voting percentage at 77 per cent.
This election follows the signing of the crucial Bodo peace accord — described as the “final and comprehensive solution” to the longstanding Bodo issue — between the Centre, the state and Bodo groups in January earlier this year, and its outcome is expected to be crucial for the Assam Assembly polls next year.
“The polling was incident-free, peaceful and orderly,” said Alok Kumar, State Election Commissioner. “We started half an hour early since Covid-19 protocols were in place.” According to the official, mandatory mask-wearing, sanitisation, and temperature checks were in place across booths for the election, which was earlier scheduled for April, but postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The BTC is an autonomous self-governing body under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, a special provision that allows for greater political autonomy and decentralised governance in certain tribal areas of the Northeast. It has under its jurisdiction four Bodo-inhabited districts of western Assam (Udalguri, Baksa, Chirang and Kokrajhar), together known as the Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR).
While 21 seats in Udalguri and Baksa districts went to polls on Monday, the remaining 19 seats will go to polls in the second phase on December 10.
Since 2005, the BTC has been controlled by the Hagrama Mohilary-led Bodoland People’s Front (BPF), an ally of the BJP at the state and the Centre. Despite that, the two are contesting separately in this election. The BPF is also facing tough competition from United People’s Party Liberal (UPPL), which has in its fold Pramod Boro, the former president of the influential All Bodo Students Union (ABSU), a key signatory of the 2020 accord. The Congress and the AIUDF are contesting jointly.
Votes will be counted on December 12.
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