Updated: March 25, 2021 7:46:06 pm
For years, Bodo electoral politics has had only one face: Hagrama Mohilary. However, since last year, the former chief of the Bodoland Territorial Council — which governs the Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR) — has a new rival. And he managed to dethrone him.
Meet Pramod Boro, the young new chief of the BTC, and until recently the president of the All Bodo Students’ Union (ABSU), the most influential Bodo civil society group. Boro’s rise to power marks not just two power centres in BTC for the first time since it came into being in 2005, but also a change in ally for the BJP this assembly election — and possibly a new kingmaker.
Boro’s emergence as a political leader comes close on the heels of the signing of a new Bodo Peace Accord. A plains-dwelling tribe, the Bodos have long fought for ‘Bodoland’, first as a “sovereign homeland” and then as a state within India. The armed movement began in the mid-1980s. To broker peace, three accords have been signed among the Centre, state and the Bodo groups — in 1993, 2003 and the latest, in January 2020, which has ostensibly led to the end of armed insurgencies and suspension of the statehood demand.
Boro became the face of the 2020 Accord — with Home Minister Amit Shah describing it as “the final and comprehensive solution” to the Bodo problem — with ABSU being one of its key signatories. While Mohilary expressed his displeasure with the Accord, Boro jumped into electoral politics joining the United People’s Party Liberal (UPPL), which ABSU shares a good relationship with.
In the BTC elections which followed in December 2020, BJP dropped its old ally, Hagrama’s Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) and went solo, and then together with Boro’s UPPL manoeuvred control of the 40-membered council. In February, Mohilary parted ways with the BJP, with the Congress more than happy to accommodate the Bodo leader. The BJP joined hands with Boro’s UPPL, which is seen as a Bodo-centric party, as opposed to Mohilary’s BPF, which has a non-Bodo voter base.
Similar to Mohilary’s trajectory, Boro became the chief of the BTC, powered by the Accord he signed. While Mohilary still holds considerable sway (he won a majority in the BTC and the support of non-Bodo votes), Boro also has a number of factors in his favour. Apart from the political backing by the BJP, Boro is seen as the man who brought peace to Bodoland after many years. “He put an end to all underground groups — a voter may like to thank him,” said a political analyst from Bodoland, who did not wish to be named. “People may be looking for an alternative,” he said. And the soft-spoken and simple Boro, till recently the president of the popular ABSU, could be that.
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