BJP is big party, up to them to take us along: Hagrama Mohilary

Hagrama Mohilary.

Hagrama Mohilary.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Bodoland Territorial Council chief readies for ballot battle after anti-coronavirus combat

India stepped into the COVID-19-induced lockdown beginning with the ‘Janata Curfew’ that Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on March 22, a day after the withdrawal of nominations for the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) polls that were scheduled on April 4.

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Hagrama Mohilary, the 51-year-old chief executive member of the council, who was running down his opponents with rustic wit, changed tack to “combat the coronavirus” to ensure a “safe field” for the deferred battle of the ballots before “reloading my strategy guns”.

Battle within

A former extremist leader who has been ruling BTC since its creation in 2003, Mr. Mohilary is wary of a battle within the battle ahead, after ally Bharatiya Janata Party fielded candidates for more than half of the 40 council seats. This was despite the Bodoland People’s Front (BPF), the party he heads, offering two seats for the BJP on the basis of “winnability”.

The BJP rules Assam in alliance with the BPF and Asom Gana Parishad (AGP). There are three BPF Ministers in the government headed by Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal.

“The BJP is a big national party and they can take anyone along. We are too small a party to do anything about it, and what is happening is because of some local BJP leaders. It’s not a question of cheating us. The alliance from our side is on, will remain,” Mr. Mohilary told The Hindu from BTC headquarters Kokrajhar, about 225 km west of Guwahati.

Critical of accord

The BTC chief was, however, critical of the Bodo Peace Accord that the Centre signed with four factions of the disbanded National Democratic Front of Boroland and other NGOs such as All Bodo Students’ Union (ABSU).

“This accord is hogwash, based on a draft the ABSU prepared with one of the NDFB (National Democratic Fund of Boroland) factions. We fought for Statehood and got BTC under an amended Sixth Schedule of the Constitution. The new accord, not under any clause of the Constitution, should have elevated BTC to at least an autonomous state, but it downgraded the council instead and potentially reduced its territory,” Mr. Hagrama said.

The BTC, covering 8,821 sq. km. across four districts bordering Bhutan, stands to lose some areas inhabited by non-Bodo tribal people under the new accord.

Mr. Hagrama played down the threat from former ABSU president Pramod Boro, a signatory of the new accord, who joined and took over the leadership of rival political party United People’s Party Liberal. He said Mr. Boro betrayed the Bodo community by pushing for a “meaningless accord” in a bid to appease the BJP.

‘More important’

“But we have a more important issue at hand now. We are ensuring the 5.5 lakh people in BTC below the poverty line do not go hungry during the lockdown,” he said.

The BTC chief has also been going about making people understand the importance of not stepping out of their houses unless for an emergency. “I tell them to avoid touching the feet of the elderly, the most vulnerable, so that they can hug them two months later,” he said.

In the appeal for social distance was a message for the voters of BTC as well as his party leaders and rivals, who hope for the council polls in two months’ time.

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Printable version | May 29, 2020 8:34:53 PM |

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