Rangja Khungur Basumatary: BPF’s ‘missing’ candidate who joined the BJP

On joining, Basumatary appealed to voters to support the BJP ally, United People’s Party Liberal (UPPL)’s candidate, Leho Ram Bodo — incidentally his main competitor till a day ago.

Till Tuesday, he was among the hundreds of candidates in the fray for the third and final phase of the Assam elections. But Rangja Khungur Basumatary, also known as Ram Kumar Basumatary — the Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) candidate from the Tamulpur constituency in Assam’s Baksa district — chose an early exit from the poll battle, curiously deciding not to contest the elections altogether.

On Thursday, Basumatary quit the BPF — an alliance partner of the Congress-led Mahajoth — to join the BJP, after remaining reportedly “untraceable” for a day.

“Official candidate of BPF and so called Congress-led alliance from Tamulpur LAC (legislative assembly constituency) Shri Ram Das Basumatary met me a short while ago. He has express(ed) his desire to join BJP and retire from the election,” Assam minister Himanta Biswa Sarma tweeted around midnight on Wednesday.

On joining, Basumatary appealed to voters to support the BJP ally, United People’s Party Liberal (UPPL)’s candidate, Leho Ram Bodo — incidentally his main competitor till a day ago.

While this is perhaps the biggest political defection in Assam this election season, considering its unprecedented nature and the fact that it happened barely a week from polling, Basumatary himself is a new entrant to politics.

In his fifties, Basumatary has spent most of his adult life working a contractor in the Sessapani area of Kumarighat in Tamulpur constituency. “He is rather well-known in Tamulpur,” said a local journalist from the area, “He would take on project to construct roads, deep wells etc.”

However, while he was associated with the BPF over the years, Basumatary only joined the party recently, shortly after which he was chosen among eleven hopefuls to contest from Tamulpur.

While Basumatary did not respond to phone calls, he earlier told local news channels that it was his own decision to switch and he did so because he had not got any support from the BPF in his own constituency despite him repeatedly asking. “I did not get any financial support from them (the BPF) so I was compelled to take this step,” he had said. “Elections are not easy and I can’t singularly fight it on my own, that is why I had told them that I had some financial inconveniences even before I took the ticket and I would need help.”

While the Opposition has cried foul demanding that Basumatary’s call records for the past seven days be made public and the polls in Tamulpur be deferred, there has been no statement from the Election Commission yet.

Tamulpur locals said that if Basumatary had been in the race, the contest would have likely been a straight contest between him and UPPL’s Boro.

Basumatary said that he was now supporting the BJP and UPPL and would continue working for the public under the saffron party’s banner.

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