Campaigning for the first phase of Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) elections to 21 seats on December 7 ended on Saturday evening, with the ruling BPF trying hard to retain its rule for the fourth consecutive term.

All major political parties in Assam participated in a high-decibel campaign to woo voters in the 40 constituencies of the council spread across Kokrajhar, Chirang, Baksa and Udalguri districts.

Ten constituencies in Udalguri and 11 in Baksa will go to polls in the first phase of the elections, in which 132 candidates are in the fray.

The second phase of polling in 19 seats will take place on December 10. Votes polled in both phases will be counted on December 12.

A total of 23,82,036 voters, including 11,79,020 women, will exercise their franchise in the two phases of the polls to the local council, which was formed in 2003 and elections are being held since 2005.

The election to the 40-member BTC was scheduled on April 4, but it was postponed indefinitely due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Subsequently, Assam Governor Jagdish Mukhi assumed administration of the council on the expiry of its five-year term on Apr 27, 2020.

The BJP-led ruling alliance’s Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) is contesting alone and both the parties were engaged in a bitter campaign with the usage of many unparliamentary words by the leaders of the two parties.

Hagrama Mohilary of the BPF led the campaign for his party, which is ruling the BTC since 2005.

On the other hand, BJP’s North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) Convenor and state minister Himanta Biswa Sarma carried out an aggressive campaign across the Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR), targeting mostly Mohilary.

On several occasions, Sarma even said that the alliance with the BPF was for five years since 2016, when the last assembly polls had taken place, and it is unlikely to renew the association for the 2021 assembly elections.

The BJP is running its first state government in Assam in alliance with the BPF and Asom Gana Parishad (AGP). The BJP, which does not have a majority, is the single largest party with 60 MLAs in the 126-member assembly, while the BPF and the AGP have 14 and 12 lawmakers respectively.

Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal had also addressed several election rallies in the BTR and said that people have welcomed the BJP for development and permanent peace in the region.

BPF’s founding member Biswajit Daimary, who resigned from Rajya Sabha, and party MLA Emmanuel Mosahary have joined the BJP during the campaigning phase.

The United People’s Party Liberal (UPPL) is another major outfit apart from the BPF and the BJP in the elections.

UPPL chief Pramod Boro, who joined the party from the All Bodo Students’ Union (ABSU), is touted to be a strong contender for the post of the chief executive member, the head of the BTC.

Other parties like the Gana Suraksha Party (GSP), the Congress-AIUDF alliance and scores of independent candidates were also engaged in intense campaigning.

Reviewing the security scenario, Director General of Police Bhaskar Jyoti Mahanta had earlier said that adequate security arrangements were made for free, fair and peaceful election with the deployment of 30 companies of paramilitary forces in the region.

A platform of 16 social organisations had alleged that some political parties were distributing cash to garner votes and submitted a memorandum to Sonowal and demanded adequate security during the polling to avoid the possibility of violence from some quarters.