Away from national limelight, Assam's Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR) is gearing up for a crucial election, the first since the Bodo Accord was signed earlier this year, ushering in an era of peace. Interestingly, this time, peace isn't the main poll plank for parties.
What makes these Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) election key is the ruling BJP contesting against its own ally of five years, the Bodoland People's Front (BPF).
Up to 40 of the 46-member BTC are elected and six nominated: BPF won 20 in 2015, the Badruddin Ajmal-led All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) won four, and the BJP bagged one; 15 were independent. This time, the polls have already been postponed for over six months due to COVID-19.
When Himanta Biswa Sarma, the BJP's go-to man now for the state and the region, joined the party in 2015, he was tasked with ensuring a Northeast bereft of Congress. He delivered this with the help of allies such as BPF chief Hagrama Mohilary, whose party has been ruling BTC for 17 years now.
Suddenly now, the BPF and the BJP are now on opposite sides.
Mr Sarma has been leading a massive BJP rallies in BTR's Udalguri district ahead of the polls scheduled for December 7 and 10 - the results to be out on December 12.
"The BJP entered into an alliance with the BPF in 2016, so we have committed that alliance for five years. But after five years, our state unit is of the view that we should fight the Bodoland polls alone," Mr Sarma told NDTV.
He has already poached two of BPF's top leaders, including former Rajya Sabha MP Biswajit Daimari. Militant-turned-politician Mohilary, the BPF chief, however, remains unfazed.
"Forget about winning, the BJP will score nil here in Bodoland. There was a change with them winning two-three seats. Since Himanta now leads their campaign and tries to polarise votes between Bodos and non-Bodos, none of their candidates will win," the BPF chief told reporters.
In the meantime, as mentioned earlier, Bodoland's politics made a tectonic shift following the peace accord.
A key signatory, student-leader-turned politician Pramod Boro, has emerged as the new face of Bodo politics. He leads the United People's Party Liberal (UPPL), a hardliner on the Bodoland demand.
"This is time to implement the NDFB accord by the state and the centre. Thus, we need a new government in the Bodoland region and we will do that when voted to power," Boro said.
The 2021 Assam assembly polls are only six months away and the BJP looks to win at least 100 of the 126 seats. The 21 lakh-odd multi-ethnic voters of BTR are a test case for the party, as they are to the main opposition, Congress, which is mulling an alliance with Mr Ajmal's AIUDF.
No wonder the BTC election is being viewed as the semi-final.