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Bodo rift clouds poll

Kokrajhar, May 12: The spectre of violence loomed large over the Bodo heartland on the eve of the first round of elections to the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC), the campaign for which was marred by mudslinging between the two groups of contenders led by former student leader Rabiram Narzary and interim council chief Hagrama Mohilary.

The divide in Bodo politics became evident when Mohilary and Narzary publicly indulged in a war of words despite being in the same party, the nascent Bodoland People’s Progressive Forum (BPPF).

The genesis of the spat was Mohilary’s support to some former militant comrades who are contesting the elections as Independent candidates. These contenders had been denied tickets by the BPPF, of which Narzary is president.

Mohilary’s support to the dissident candidates prompted even the ex-BLT Welfare Society, which represents the former rebels, to ask its former chief to honour the principles of the fledgling party formed in collaboration with Absu.

Its secretary K. Brahma said Mohilary was a deserving candidate for the BTC chief’s post, but he could not take the liberty of going against the principles of the new party by backing Independent contenders for seats in the territorial council.

Narzary, however, made light of the crisis by describing it as a normal aspect of elections. He said the BPPF would convene a meeting after the elections to find ways to end the impasse.

“The present crisis is temporary. It happens in all political parties and organisations. After the elections are over, we will continue working together and make the BPPF stronger,” he told the media today.

Narzary, who previously headed the influential All Bodo Students Union (Absu), faces a tough contest in Banargaon, where he is pitted against Monoj Kumar Brahma, the former treasurer of the disbanded Bodo Liberation Tigers. Several other BPPF stalwarts are up against dissident candidates.

A senior police official did not discount the possibility of violence despite the comprehensive security arrangements. “With both Absu supporters and former militants engaged in a game of one-upmanship, violence cannot be ruled out.”

Inspector-general of police R.M. Singh said paramilitary personnel would assist the police in ensuring free and fair polls. “Security arrangements are being monitored everyday. All vulnerable areas have been identified and placed under tight security.”

The militant National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB) has, however, washed its hands of the elections.

The fate of the 247 candidates in the battle of the ballot for 35 seats will be decided by an electorate of 16,14,869. The government has declared a local holiday in the BTC-administered districts tomorrow to enable people to vote.

Five candidates, including Mohilary and his deputy Chandan Brahma, have been elected uncontested. The ballots will be counted on May 18 and all the results are expected to be declared that very day.

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