Why the switching of sides by the Bodoland People’s Front leader from the BJP to Congress is one of the biggest political developments of Assam polls

The popularity of Hagrama Mohilary, once the unrivalled face of Bodo politics and a kingmaker since he joined mainstream politics in 2005, could also be seen as on the decline. Yet, it’s undeniable that one among the most important political developments before the Assam elections was the exit of Mohilary’s Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) from the BJP-led alliance to hitch the Congress-led Mahajot.

Popularly mentioned as ‘Chief’, the 52-year-old was once one among the foremost feared militants in Assam because the face of the Bodo Liberation Tigers, fighting for a separate state for the Bodos.

A plains-dwelling tribe, the Bodos have long fought for ‘Bodoland’, first as a “sovereign homeland” then as a state within India. The armed movement began within the mid-1980s.

But in 2003, Mohilary and his cadres gave up arms and signed a peace accord with the Centre, leading to a Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC). The BTC was promised as a self-governing body under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, which allows greater autonomy to certain tribal areas of the Northeast.

Under its jurisdiction are four Bodo-inhabited districts of western Assam (Udalguri, Baksa, Chirang and Kokrajhar), covering about 12 Assembly seats (six of them reserved). The BPF won all the 12 seats within the 2016 Assembly polls; in 2011, it conceded only one , to the AGP.

Since 2005 till last year, Mohilary was the BTC’s Chief Executive Member, winning uncontested.