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Assam: Peace, Development In Focus For Kokrajhar Voters

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KOKRAJHAR, May 6: The assurance of sustained peace will be at the top of mind of voters in Assam’s Kokrajhar, once an area affected by militancy, when they elect their representative to the Lok Sabha on Tuesday.

The main contest is expected to be between United People’s Party Liberal’s (UPPL) Jayanta Basumatary and Bodoland People’s Front’s (BPF) Kampa Borgoyari in this constituency at the heart of Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR).

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Congress’ Garjan Mushahary, Trinamool Congress’ (TMC) Arun Kumar Sarania and Gana Suraksha Party’s (GSP) Binita Deka are also in the fray for the Kokrajhar Lok Sabha constituency.

The UPPL heads the administration of Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC), in alliance with BJP, with both parties also part of the coalition government in the state.

The BPF is the principal opposition, having ruled the BTR for 17 years since its formation in 2003 until being ousted from power in 2020 by the present regime.

Though the incumbent MP, Naba Kumar Sarania, is out of the race after his Scheduled Tribe (ST) status was cancelled, his GSP is putting up their fight through Deka in this constituency reserved for the ST communities.

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UPPL, fighting anti-incumbency, is banking on its ‘success in ensuring sustained peace’ as a major advantage, BTC chief Pramod Boro said.

“There has been no violence in BTR since we took over. We are also ensuring development and all-round growth of the people. People have seen the misrule of BPF and Congress, and are ready to send our candidate to Parliament,” he claimed.

The support of BJP could emerge as the decisive factor for the UPPL and take it first past the finish line.

BPF MLA Rabiram Narzary, however, differed and said, “It is the BPF which has brought peace to BTR and worked to bring the communities together. The people are fed up with these four years of UPPL.”

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The Congress, which has not been able to regain its footing in the constituency for long years, also claimed of once again getting the confidence of the voters, while TMC and GSP each maintained that they are emerging as the choice of cross section of people.

The parties may be putting together their political equations, but for the general voters the prevailing peace has emerged as a major factor.

“Bomb blasts, firings, kidnappings, bandhs were the order of the day. From communal and ethnic clashes to counter-insurgency operations, we have seen it all. It has only been the last few years that we have seen sustained peace,” Arjit Das (named changed on request), a local entrepreneur said.

From having to give up his first car to the bank against unpaid instalments as business was bleak at the turn of the century, Das now owns two vehicles and operates several more under his travel agency.

Newton Narzary, who runs a hotel near Raimona National Park and also drives a tourist gypsy, shares Das’ sentiment.

“It used to be only uncertainty and fear, no matter to which community you belonged to. Let alone tourists, we locals feared to move out alone after dusk. But we have a bustling business now,” he said.

Most maintain that the return of peace has been possible with the signing of 2020 pact by the Central and the state governments with different Bodo groups, including NDFB, and surrender of almost all major militant groups active in BTR.

While people are thankful for return of peace, issues of ‘inequal development’ and ‘more rights’ of the Bodo community are also likely to play on the minds of the non-Bodo voters.

In the constituency of nearly 15 lakh voters, Bodos form about 5 lakh of the electorate, while the rest are non-Bodo communities, including different ST groups, religious minorities and general category people.

“Naba Sarania had won by playing the ‘non-Bodo card’, but he did nothing in 10 years. We won’t fall for such gimmicks again, but we will definitely look for someone who will give equal voice to all of us,” Pramod Sharma, a retired government official of Basugaon, said.

“The first step towards development has been taken with sustained peace. We are now hoping that whoever wins will take it forward,” an optimistic Prasenjit, who works in a private firm, added, summing up the aspiration of peace and development of the voters. (PTI)

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