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Kokrajhar voters spoilt for choice with six candidates

Kokrajhar, April 22: A retired IPS officer, two former militants, two former student leaders-turned-politicians and a lawyer — Kokrajhar Lok Sabha constituency is offering its voters a colourful spectrum of candidates.

In a departure from the past, where the contest used to be primarily between two parties or a maximum of three to four candidates since elections began in 1951-52, in the fray this time are six candidates, all of whom heavyweights. Spoilt for choice, the voters appear happy.

“We hardly had a choice. But this time we have quite a few candidates to choose from. We are hearing them all and will vote only if we are convinced that they will deliver,” said J. Basumatary, a businessman.

“We are happy we have six candidates this time and hope this election will be peaceful, free and fair,” said Malati Brahma, an elderly lady.

Former Meghalaya governor Ranjit Shekhar Mooshahary, retired Indian Police Service (IPS) officer who served as the director-general of the elite National Security Guards (NSG) and the BSF, is poised to lock horns with two former militant leaders, Naba Kumar Sarania alias Hira Sarania (former commander of Ulfa’s 709 battalion) and Chandan Brahma (vice-chairman of the erstwhile Bodo Liberation Tigers and present Assam transport and tourism minister), two former student leaders turned politicians, Urkhao Gwra Brahma (former Rajya Sabha MP and Absu president) and Sansuma Khunggur Bwiswmuthiary (four-time sitting MP and former general secretary of Absu) and lawyer Sabda Rabha.

While Mooshahary, a Trinamul Congress candidate, and Sarania, the consensus candidate of Jonogosthiyo Oikyo Moncho, a conglomerate of non-Bodo groups, are contesting elections for the first time, U.G. Brahma, an Independent backed by Absu and its allied organisations, Chandan Brahma of the BPF, Bwiswmuthiary (Independent) and Rabha (Independent) are seasoned politicians.

The major poll planks are law and order situation in the BTAD, safety and security of all sections of the people, all-round development and the demand for statehood.

U.G. Brahma has promised to address the issues of human resource development and social integration among all communities in the region. He also favours a permanent solution to the “Bodoland” problem.

Bwiswmuthiary’s manifesto highlights the issues of building a human resource, safety and security of life and property of people, solution to the problem of militancy through political dialogue in the Northeast and healthy democracy among communities in the region.

Rabha said he would work for equal distribution of power and rights among communities in the BTAD, for a strong law to prevent harassment of people from the Northeast and for extending the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996, to cover areas not mentioned in the Panchayati Raj Act in a bid to empower indigenous communities to have control over governance and resources.

BPF candidate Chandan Brahma has promised to work for all-round development of the region. Mooshahary has taken up the issue of good governance while Sarania has spoken about safety and security and other issues concerning the people.

l Kokrajhar votes on April 24