Guwahati: The stage is set for Wednesday's elections to Assam's Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC), an autonomous administrative unit that looks into development issues of the Bodo community.
Apart from the ruling Bodoland Peoples' Front (BPF), which has been in power since the council's first election in 2005, the other principal players, the BJP and the Congress, have also fielded candidates in all the 40 seats of the region called the Bodoland Territorial Area Districts (BTAD).
The BTC also looks into the preservation of land rights, linguistic aspiration, socio-culture and ethnic identity of the community.
All the adversaries are highlighting development and peace as their main campaign planks in the region that had seen much bloodbath till the beginning of the last decade with the Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT) insurgent outfit fighting for a separate state.
While the BPF is going all out to retain power, the elections are crucial for both the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress to gauge the popular mood ahead of the assembly polls.
The All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), headed by perfume trader Badaruddin Ajmal, is contesting eight seats. The party has a support base in some of the belts dominated by religious minorities in BTAD.
Adding a further twist to the political scene, the Peoples' Confederation of Democratic Rights (PCDR), a newly floated conglomeration of various communities living in BTAD, has lent support to independent candidates in all the 40 constituencies.
Besides, there are six candidates fielded by the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), seven by the CPI-M, and one by the CPI. A total of 151 independent candidates are also in the fray.
The elections, covering four districts - Kokrajhar, Baksa, Chirang and Udalguri - of the total 27 in the state, would involve an electorate of 20,64,099 spread over 2,778 polling stations.
Only nine of the candidates are women, election department officials said.
Votes will be counted on April 11.
The BTC is a territorial privilege, established under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, and came into existence after the erstwhile BLT militants signed a Memorandum of Settlement (MoS) with the Assam and central governments on February 10, 2003.
The BTC came into existence immediately after the surrender of the BLT cadres. Its chief Hagrama Mohilary formed the interim council by taking over as the chief executive member (CEM) of the council.