Assam Governor Jagdish Mukhi on Tuesday took charge of the administration of the Bodoland Territorial Council, after its five-year term ended on Monday.

This is the first time the Bodoland Territorial Council will be under the Governor’s Rule since it was established in 2003, and is a setback for the ruling Bodoland People’s Front, which wanted an extension of the term or elections at the earliest, The Telegraph reported.

“I assumed the administration of Bodoland Territorial Council with immediate effect in public interest in exercise of powers vested in me under sub paragraph 2 of Para 16 of the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution of India,” Mukhi said in a tweet.

On March 20, the State Election Commission had deferred the elections, scheduled to be held on April 4 in 40 constituencies, because of the ongoing nationwide lockdown to help curb the spread of Covid-19. “Due to various restrictions imposed to prevent the spread of coronavirus, it will be difficult to ensure a free and fair election. So, the commission has decided to defer it,” Assam State Election Commissioner Aloke Kumar had said.

The Bodoland Territorial Council’s jurisdiction includes Kokrajhar, Baksa, Chirang and Udalguri and it is collectively known as the Bodoland Territorial Administrative Districts.

Mukhi said that Principal Secretary Rajesh Prasad was appointed the administrator to “superintend, direct and control the overall administration of Bodoland Territorial Council”, while Indian Administrative Service officer Siddhartha Singh was appointed as the Principal Secretary of Bodoland Territorial Council, Kokrajhar.

On Monday, the Assam Cabinet requested the state election commission to conduct polls at the earliest while ensuring safety, PTI reported. Assam Parliamentary Affairs Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary said, “There can be door-to-door campaigns.”

Rajya Sabha MP and senior BPF leader Biswajit Daimary in a Facebook post criticised the governor’s decision and said the governor had overruled the state government’s proposal to extend the tenure of the existing Bodoland Territorial Council, which is temporarily being led by Hagrama Mahilary.

“There is a provision for extension of the council as per clause-6A provision of para-2 of the sixth schedule,” Daimary said, adding that according to the sixth schedule, the governor cannot overrule the council of minister’s or state government’s proposal. He said the governor does not have the discretionary powers to do so. “I think it’s a kind of violation of [the] constitution. It’s very unfortunate and a very bad precedence for [the] near future.”

The Bodoland Territorial Council came into existence in 2003 after the central and state governments signed the second peace accord with Bodo Liberation Tigers, the erstwhile insurgent outfit. The signatories of the Bodo peace agreement had said a provision to absorb them into Bodo politics will bring a transformation of the Bodo Territorial Region as they have struggled for decades and understand the needs of the people.