The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Assam coalition under strain

Kokrajhar, Feb. 23: All is not well in the marriage of convenience between the Congress and the Bodoland People’s Progressive Front.

The first sign of trouble in the ruling coalition in Assam became visible today with the BPPF-led Bodoland Territorial Council lashing out at the government for delaying the release of development funds for the Bodo-dominated districts.

The BPPF, which has 11 legislators in the 126-member Assembly, helped the Congress form the government in the hope that the Bodoland districts of Kokrajhar, Baksa, Chirang and Udalguri would be put on the fast track to development. But BTC deputy chief Kampha Borgoyari’s tone at a news conference suggested that the party’s expectations have not been met.

“Of the Rs 300-crore special package for the BTC for the years 2004-05, 2005-06, 2006-07, Delhi has so far released Rs 216 crore to the state government. But the entire amount has not reached us till now for reasons best known to them (the Congress leadership in Dispur),” he said.

The BTC leader demanded direct central funding instead of funds being routed through the state government. “The system of central funding through the state government has led to a lot of problems and is totally unnecessary.”

Borgoyary stopped short of commenting on the future of the BPPF’s relationship with the Congress, but other party leaders said their party would not hesitate to “go to extremes” to get justice for the Bodos. “We are in the government to ensure that there is development in the BTC area. But if the government continues to be indifferent, we are ready to do anything...even quit,” one of them said.

The BTC deputy chief said the last tripartite accord-review meeting involving Delhi, the state government and the Bodo leadership focused on the hurdles that have delayed the fulfilment of all promises made to the Bodo population. The meeting was held in New Delhi on Wednesday.

Borgoyary said the BTC would appreciate it if the remaining instalments of the central allocation were paid by March 31, as promised during the review meeting.

The BTC wants the Rs 500-crore special package to be doubled.

On the National Democratic Front of Boroland’s remark that the BTC is “just an economic package and cannot fulfil the political aspirations of the Bodo people”, Borgoyary said the militant group should aim for something better rather than question what has already been done.

“The BTC is a foundation for a political set-up and not the final result. If the NDFB can bring about something better and bigger, we will welcome it,” he added.

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