Guwahati : Results from Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) polls could project a fractured mandate, even as the BJP emerges as the biggest gainer.
The polls to the 40-member council, held on December 7 and 10, are largely seen as the semifinal ahead of the Assembly polls next year.
As the counting of votes progresses, Assam's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and BTC's two main contenders, Bodoland People's Front (BPF) and United People's Party Liberal (UPPL), fail to touch the magic figures of 21.
The BJP and its junior ally BPF separately fought the BTC polls, helping BPF gain an edge in 16 seats. However, according to the results and trends till late on Saturday night, the BJP and UPPL have won and are leading in 10 seats each.
The Congress is leading in one seat while the Independents are ahead in three other seats.
This is the first election in the BTC after the Centre had signed the Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR) peace accord with the All Bodo Students' Union and some factions of the insurgent group National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) in January this year.
The BTC administers four districts -- Kokrajhar, Chirang, Baksa and Udalguri -- in northwest Assam bordering West Bengal, Arunachal Pradesh and Bhutan, and all of them are called BTR.
The BJP, which heads Assam's ruling coalition, is likely to emerge as the major winner as the party has won/leading in 10 seats. It had managed just one seat in the 2015 BTC polls.
Despite the BJP having an alliance with the BPF in running the Assam government, in this politically important BTC polls, the saffron party has ditched its junior partner.
Relations between the BJP and the BPF started souring after the BTC was placed under Governor's rule earlier this year. Political observers felt that the BJP might forge an alliance with the UPPL to govern the tribal autonomous body.
The BPF has ruled the BTC ever since 2005 after the tribal autonomous body was constituted in 2003 as a political solution to the Bodo agitation for a separate state.
The BTC elections were scheduled on April 4 but were postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The politically significant BTC elections witnessed a multi cornered contest.
Besides BJP, BPF and UPPL, the Congress and its ally All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) and Gana Suraksha Party (GSP) had also put up candidates.
The BJP-led North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) Convenor and Assam's Finance and Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma carried out a hectic campaign in the electioneering while Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal had also addressed several election rallies.
The BTC election is considered as a semifinal before the 126-member Assam Assembly goes to the polls in March-April next year.
The tribal council polls were the first election in Assam since the Covid-19 pandemic started and the entire process of balloting was conducted maintaining all safety protocols.
IANS report with edits