As 2018 assembly elections are close at hand for four states of Northeast India, it is interesting how BJP is approaching each state with a different strategy and outlook and only time will tell how deep an impact will the central party make in Northeast Indian states
Tucked in the Northeastern region of the Indian subcontinent, lies the 8 states that still do not fail to generate a certain amount of awe in people’s minds, mostly due to their unexplored domains. However politically, this is not the case. Seen as a passage to South East Asia, the strategic location of many states in Northeast India is enough to garner the required political attention so as to give it an important place in PM Modi’s ‘Act East Policy’.
The year 2016 was a turning point in the political scenario of Northeast India which marked the advent of BJP for the first time in the history of Assam, a congress ruled state from 2001-16 under the leadership of Tarun Gogoi. As glorifying as it may sound, the efforts made by BJP in terms of social media outreach, awareness programmes and most importantly, reaching out to the masses, especially in terms of a strong leader in the form of Himanta Biswa Sarma or Sarbananda Sonowal is something that cannot be ignored.
This was soon followed by BJP’s stronghold in Arunachal Pradesh as well as in Manipur. In less than 2 years, BJP was able to conquer 3 states of Northeast India. But the question that arises is, whether BJP’s victory was ensured by lack of a strong leadership from other political parties or was BJP strong enough in itself to topple its contenders?
As four Northeast Indian states including Meghalaya, Nagaland, Tripura and Mizoram gear up for 2018 Assembly elections, BJP is trying its level best to create inroads into the political scenario here. In Congress ruled Meghalaya, for instance, BJP has recently presented a five-point development plan that includes infrastructure, education, employment, tourism development and eradication of corruption. The same was presented by Union Minister Alphons Joseph Kannanthanam on his visit to Tura. Again, with numerous dissidents defecting from various political parties in Meghalaya, BJP has been welcoming enough to greet them with open arms. More politicians are in the fray to join BJP and by December, it is even predicted that BJP may also announce its Chief Ministerial Candidate. The role of regional parties in Meghalaya cannot be sidelined and plagued with political instability, there arises a greater need for a united regional forum if the government in power needs to be toppled. But will that be achieved with an alliance with BJP is a question that still needs to be answered.
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In NPF (Naga People’s Front) ruled Nagaland, the issue of bad roads haunts the people and there is no end to their woes. And this is again being used by the BJP as a tactic for being voted to power. While the opposition is busy throwing jibes pertaining to GST and demonetization, BJP, as per the statement of cabinet minister Mhon Kikon from Nagaland, “is waiting for the right time” to strike. While NPF has been seen to be a close ally of BJP, their difference of opinion between the Shurhozelie and Zeliang, faction of NPF regarding their support to the central party. While Shurhozelie led NPF is deeply rooted in its regional ideologies, the Zeliang faction, as of now, is willing to embrace nationalism while rendering its support to BJP. The Congress however, is also trying its level best to steal the bastion as they continue to target the Center pertaining to their faulty demonetization and GST policies.
In Congress-ruled Mizoram under the leadership of Lal Thanhawla who is also Mizoram’s longest serving Chief Minister with a combined tenure of over 17 years; BJP is surely eyeing the chair. With a strong regional party Mizo National Front (MNF) as its ally, the BJP is definitely eyeing the limelight next year.
In CPM ruled Tripura too, Chief Minister Manik Sarkar has been in power for four consecutive terms in a span of fifteen years and eyeing this position will not be a cake walk for BJP. However, it may be mentioned that the BJP has been actively showing its support to the IPFT (Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura), especially after the IPFT called for a blockade that garnered nationwide attention following which the death of TV journalist Santanu Bhowmick in Mandai in Tripura’s Khowai district proved that IPFT’s association with BJP may be the key to the 2018 elections in state. The BJP has been courting IPFT and INPT (Indigeneous Nationalist Party of Twipra) in the hope of creating an alliance to challenge the Left. However, it may be mentioned that IPFT sticks to the demand of a separate land for the indigenous people and BJP accepting this demand is a big question mark!
This can be said owing to the false promises made by BJP in the past. It may be mentioned that in its 2014 manifesto, BJP had garnered enough support from Gorkhas and the Bodos after showing their support for ‘Gorkhaland’ as well as ‘Bodoland’ in their manifesto. But what happened in the aftermath of them being voted to power is open for all to observe and analyze.
As 2018 assembly elections are close at hand for four states of Northeast India, it is interesting to see how BJP is approaching each state with a different strategy and outlook and only time will tell how deep an impact will the central party make in Northeast Indian states.