The assembly polls in four northeastern states — Tripura, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Mizoram — in 2023 are expected to predict the electoral fortunes of the BJP, Congress and other parties in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls in the mountainous region.
Though the assembly polls and the Lok Sabha elections are fought on different issues and a dissimilar political backdrop, the assembly polls in the four northeastern states with six Lok Sabha seats would give a clear political signal about the outcome of the parliamentary polls.
The ruling BJP is the dominant party in the alliance government in Tripura while the saffron party led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) partners — Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP), Mizo National Front (MNF) and National People’s Party (NPP) lead governments in Nagaland, Mizoram and Meghalaya respectively.
The BJP’s 12 MLAs and two legislators are in the governments of Nagaland and Meghalaya respectively.
Since 1952, the northeastern states had been a stronghold of the Congress but over the years the party lost its organisational base leading to the emergence of the BJP and several regional parties.
Political commentator Satyabrata Chakraborti said that the regional parties had emerged highlighting the local and regional issues. Due to a lack of proactive leaders and central leaders’ inactivity, the Congress gradually lost ground to the BJP and the regional parties.
“The Congress could not succeed in effectively dealing with the insurgency, unemployment, connectivity, infrastructure development and solution of the diverse ethnic issues. The party failed to exploit even whatever good steps were taken by the Congress governments including setting up of tribal autonomous councils in several northeastern states,” he told IANS.
Chakraborti said that there is no sign that the grand old party would revive its position in the region with a multiplicity of around 400 tribes and diverse religions.
“Congress’ double engine (party governments both at the Centre and the states) was very weak or ineffective compared to the BJP’s double engine.
The fall of the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government and the emergence of the NDA government at the Centre pushed the Congress to a defensive position,” the analyst said.
Political pundits predicted that if the Congress performed poorly in the assembly elections in the four states the party would likely face further erosion and fare poorly in next year’s parliamentary polls.
Of the 25 Lok Sabha seats in the eight northeastern states, the BJP has 14 seats followed by the Congress with four and the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF in Assam), Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP in Nagaland), Mizo National Front (MNF in Mizoram), National People’s Party (NPP in Meghalaya), Naga People’s Front (NPF in Manipur) and Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM in Sikkim) and independent (in Assam) have one seat each.
When hundreds of Congress leaders and MLAs over the years quit the party to join the BJP and other parties due to diverse reasons including internal feud, the Central party leaders remained inactive weakening the party further.
Since 2014 the Congress leaders of the northeastern region who left the party include Himanta Biswa Sarma, Sushmita Dev and Ripun Bora (Assam), Manik Saha, Ratan Lal Nath (Tripura), N.Biren Singh (Manipur), Pema Khandu (Arunachal Pradesh), Neiphiu Rio (Nagaland), Mukul Sangma and Ampareen Lyngdoh (Meghalaya).
The NDA government’s massive investment and infrastructure development helped the BJP leaders to convince the people of the region that it has given top priority to the all round development of the eight northeastern states.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit in Meghalaya and Tripura last month said that his government was investing Rs seven lakh crore to develop the infrastructure in the northeastern region while the spending on the region was a mere Rs two lakh crore since the independence of the country.Withdrawal of the Armed Forces (Special Power) Act, 1958 from most parts of the region, promulgation of the Inner Line Permit and signing of accords with several militant outfits in the region also helped the BJP to garner peop’e’s support.
However, the agitations against the Citizenship Amendment Act slightly put the BJP in an awkward position, but the Central government is tactfully going ahead with the sensitive issue.
(Sujit Chakraborty can be contacted at email@example.com)