Assam: BTC polls end, second phase records 78.8% turnout


GUWAHATI: Over 78 per cent voter turnout was recorded on Thursday in Bodo Territorial Council‘s (BTC) second and final phase of polling, which witnessed police firing in the air to control a clash between BPF and UPPL supporters in Chirang district of Assam.

Till the closing of polls at 4.30 pm, 78.80 per cent of 10,23,404 voters exercised their franchise, deciding the fate of 111 candidates for 19 constituencies spread across Kokrajhar and Chirang districts.

An official of the Assam State Election Commission (ASEC) said long queues were still there at several of the booths of the total 1,407 polling stations and the voting percentage is likely to go up further.

“Except for one polling booth, it was peaceful voting. In the said polling booth, the presiding officer was replaced by the returning officer,” he added.

At the booth of Dattapur LP School in Chirang, supporters of BPF and UPPL clashed when the presiding officer was helping an aged person to cast his vote.

Police had to fire a round in the air to control the situation and voting was interrupted for a brief period, a senior official said after visiting the booth.

The polling exercise, which was conducted through the paper ballot, was briefly halted at Pathargaon LP School in Chirang district after the voting stamp was allegedly stolen by one of the voters.

The voting for the 19 constituencies in the second and final phase of the 40-member BTC began at 7.30 am amid observation of COVID-19 protocols.

However, voters were seen not following the safety regulations with many not wearing masks and people huddling in groups.

The much-awaited voting for the BTC began on December 7 with over 77.01 per cent voters exercising their franchise in the first phase of polling for 21 seats in Udalguri and Baksa districts, where 130 candidates have contested.

Out of the total 3,164 polling booths in the four districts, the authorities marked 606 as very sensitive and 1,266 as sensitive, and arranged tight security measures in those, an ASEC official said.

The counting will be held on December 12, beginning at 8 am.

A total of 23,87,422 voters in the two phases exercised their franchise to elect their representatives for the local council, formed in 2003 and elections being held since 2005.

The election was scheduled on April 4, but it was postponed indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Subsequently, Governor Jagdish Mukhi assumed the charge of the council on the expiry of its five-year term on Apr 27.

Hagrama Mohilary-led Bodoland People”s Front (BPF) is fighting to save its 15-year-old BTC regime, while state ally BJP is putting all efforts to dethrone the regional party.

Casting his vote in Kokrajhar, Mohilary said his party will come to power for the fourth term by winning 30 out of the 40 seats.

“I am confident that BPF will have the majority. BJP and Himanta Biswa Sarma tried to destroy the Bodo community and destabilise the region by inciting violence, but he failed,” Mohilary told reporters.

The BJP and BPF are contesting separately and both the parties were engaged in a bitter campaign.

“The rift has appeared between me and Himanta Biswa Sarma, and it will stay. I will not be there where Sarma is,” Mohilary said, targetting the BJP strongman.

The United People”s Party Liberal (UPPL) led by Boro is projecting itself as a third alternative in the polls.

“In the worst case, UPPL will get 27 seats and in the best case, it will be more than 33. The next government in BTC will be by UPPL,” Boro said, exuding confidence.

Gana Suraksha Party (GSP), the Congress-AIUDF alliance and scores of Independent candidates are also in the fray to make their mark ahead of the state polls that are likely in April-May next year. PTI