BJP snubs Himanta, Ranjeet; to continue ties with BPF

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Saffron to go it alone in 12 assembly segments in BTR

HT Bureau

GUWAHATI, Nov 20: Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) on Friday decided to continue its electoral alliance with Hagrama Mohilary-led Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) in the state ahead of the elections to Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) slated on December 7 and 10.

In a crucial meeting with Central leaders in New Delhi on Friday evening, BJP national president JP Nadda clarified that the alliance with the BPF will not be snapped at this moment. However, the alliance between the two parties will be reviewed after the election to the council.

The meeting which was attended by Union home minister Amit Shah, chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal, state BJP chief Ranjeet Kumar Dass and finance minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, state BJP organising secretary Phani Sharma, also discussed the poll strategy of the party for the next assembly elections.

“BJP will form government in BTC. So what is the value of alliance with BPF in 2021,” state finance minister and convenor of North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) Himanta Biswa Sarma told reporters minutes after the meeting.

“We have urged the central leaders for breaking the ties with the BPF. I believe they understood the situation,” state BJP president Ranjeet Kumar Dass said.

Dass also said the BJP will also review its alliance with AGP in some constituencies in which they are weak.

The differences between the two parties widened on the issue of postponement of BTC polls.

Both parties, which along with the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) have been in power since 2016, are contesting polls to the BTC independently.

Even as BPF offered two seats to BJP, the latter has fielded candidates in 27 seats in the elections.

On Thursday, Sarma said, “Our partnership with BPF was only for five years and it won’t continue beyond that. We are contesting the BTC polls alone and will fight the assembly polls without alliance with BPF.”

Dass also stated that he wasn’t in favour of continuing the alliance with BPF and will convey the same to the party leadership. The final decision on the partnership will be taken in Delhi, he added.

“Whether we will stay with the BJP or join the Congress hasn’t been decided yet. Only after BTC polls are over, we will decide on partnerships for the assembly polls. It is for the BJP to decide whether they want to continue with us or not,” BPF chief Hagrama Mohilary told journalists on Thursday.

“We have heard about a meeting between JP Nadda and Assam BJP leaders, but have no clue what it is about. They (BJP) are a national party and it’s for them to decide whom they want to join hands with. BPF will emerge stronger if the partnership breaks,” he added.

BJP came to power in Assam for the first time in 2016 with the help of BPF. The regional party, which has a strong presence in the Bodo-dominated districts of Kokrajhar, Udalguri, Baksa and Chirang, has 12 MLAs and three ministers in the Sonowal cabinet. BJP (60) and AGP (14) have a total of 74 legislators in the 126-member assembly.

Differences between BJP and BPF intensified in March this year after polls to BTC, which was under the latter’s control, was postponed due to Covid-19 and the areas under the council were placed under Governor’s Rule from April 27. BPF wanted the tenure of the council extended till polls.

Election to BTC will be held in two phases next month and a bitter campaign between both parties is underway to take control of the council which has a total of 40 seats.

The BPF has been ruling the BTC, which administers four districts falling under Bodoland Territorial Region, for 17 years since its creation in 2003 following the Centre’s signing of a peace accord with erstwhile insurgent group Bodo Liberation Tigers.

Led by Sarma, the BJP is campaigning very aggressively for the BTC elections. However, Hagrama Mohilary, who is the BPF chief, said there were no takers for Sarma’s brand of politics in the Bodo areas.

“Himanta Biswa Sarma knows nothing about the BTC. He can influence none in our areas with his bullying attitude,” Mohilary said.

The BPF was an ally of the Congress when the latter under former chief minister Tarun Gogoi ruled the state.

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