Soon after its shock defeat in its own backyard in the recent Lok Sabha elections, where a non-Bodo independent candidate, Naba Kumar Sarania, won the Kokrajhar parliamentary seat, the Bodoland People's Front had to do something to protect its political future. That process began on Thursday (26 June) when BPF president Hagrama Mohilary announced at a press conference in Kokrajhar that the party was withdrawing from the Assam government and snapping its eight-year-old ties with the ruling Congress.
The alliance was already under strain, thanks to the violent riots of 2012 in the Bodoland Territorial Area Districts between the indigenous Bodos and alleged Bengali-speaking Muslim migrants from Bangladesh. While 77 people reportedly lost their lives, over 400,000 people took shelter in 270 relief camps after being displaced from almost 400 villages. The relationship soured further when many Congress leaders, including state ministers, blamed the BPF for the violence. The BPF took offence and said that the Congress was trying to protect its voter base by siding with Muslim migrants.
"We had given an indication around a week ago. We had good friendship when we started off in 2006. In fact, Tarun Gogoi (Assam chief minister) could form the government only because we gave them support then. Did they not complete their term till 2011? They did not treat us with respect as an ally," BPF secretary Prabin Boro told Firstpost from Kokrajhar.
Criticising the Congress further, he said, "The government never gave any important office to BPF. We had asked for the Relief and Rehabilitation Department but it never came to us. There has been no hike in funding for the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) since the day it started and it always remained at 12.19 percent of budgetary allocation. Should there be no hike when inflation is so high? Even the sanctioned amount in not released to the BTC. There is also no special package for BTC."
BPF's complaints against the Congress, particularly the state government, hold water because administratively the BTC hardly possesses any meaningful power to impact the people residing in the territory.
"The administration is with the state government. We don't have any police powers. We don't have any power to direct a deputy commissioner or a superintendent of police. There is no security to the life and property of the people in the region. There is so much extortion and kidnapping going on. Why can't the government use its military and crush the terrorism in BTAD once and for all? The state government nabbed the KLT militants in Karbi Anglong when they shot down a SP in no time. They have no such similar interest in the BTAD," the BPF secretary said.
It is no secret that the state government has not implemented the BTC Accord in letter and spirit. Half-baked policies have increased the distance not only between the state government and BPF but also between the people and BPF.
"There is no denying that we have our own faults. People won't go into the nitty-gritty and study our limitations. To them we are part of the ruling front and we failed to deliver. People thought we failed to give them security," Boro said.
BPF has 12 MLAs out of 126 in the state assembly with Chandan Brahma being the only member in Gogoi's council of ministers with the portfolios of Transport, Tourism and Welfare of Plains Tribes and Backward Classes in BTAD. The Congress has 77 members and the withdrawal won't have any impact on the state government.
"BPF is an independent political party. It is their decision to quit the alliance. We did not ask them to leave. We gave them sufficient responsibilities in the government. It is entirely false to say that we did not care about them. The Congress as a party never spoke ill of BPF. Funds for many things are not being released because of red tapism. It is not that BTC was singled out to block funds," said Assam Congress spokesperson Kishor Bhattacharyya.
Rumours are rife that the BPF might have snapped ties with the Congress as it is trying to cosy up to the Bharatiya Janata Party. BJP patriarch LK Advani is seen as the architect of the BTC when he was the deputy prime minister. On 10 February 2003, the insurgent group Bodo Liberation Tigers signed an accord with the Centre and the state government to form the 46-member BTC in Assam in the presence of Advani, who was then deputy PM.
"We always have goodwill for the BJP because of Advani. We are a regional force and we will have to go to a national party for our needs. We know that if we maintain a good relationship with the BJP, it will help BTAD and keep the cash flow on to BTC for the development of the area. But this does not mean we will have an alliance with the BJP for the 2016 assembly polls. We have the BTC elections in 2015 before that," Boro said.
Assam BJP spokesperson Rupam Goswami refrained from making a direct comment on the issue.
"Whatever happened between the Congress and BPF is an internal affair of the BPF. As of now we are keen on fighting the assembly polls alone. It is too early to say whether we shall fight the assembly polls together with BPF. The party will decide that. In any case, anything can happen in politics," Goswami told Firstpost from Guwahati.
The Congress did not sound perturbed by such a possible scenario.
"I cannot comment on that until it actually happens. Even if they go for an alliance with the BJP, we have no fear about it. Time will tell how the equations would be. It is not a surprise for us as Mohilary had earlier announced that the BPF would prefer to stay close with the party that is in power at the Centre," Bhattacharyya said.
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Updated Date: Jun 28, 2014 14:54:15 IST