In The North East, BJP’s Lotus Is Starting To Bloom

Posted by Subash Deb in Politics
March 10, 2017

The grand and oldest party of India which has been strong over the last decade is changing into a house of cards. The continuing plummet of the Congress party began with the rise of the Modi wave. The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) electoral fortune is on the rise, barring some reverses over the last two years since it came to power at the centre. It has been making inroads into states and regions where it never managed to get a toe-hold in the past. With its Hindutva ideology in the forefront, the saffron party had once lost its political mandate in our secular nation. The sudden turn in its political kismet is perhaps the result of various steps, including course corrections, hard work of its foot soldiers and the anti-incumbency factor working against the opposition, especially after its involvement in infamous scams.

The assembly elections in five states, the results of which are due tomorrow, are again a litmus test for the right-wing party ahead of the 2019 general elections. The outcomes of these state elections are crucial, given the fact that they hold the key to increasing the BJP’s strength in the upper house of the Parliament, which would eventually translate into a rather easy passage for certain legislative reforms as well as understanding the mood of the people post Modi’s historic currency reform measure in November 2016.

It cannot be denied here that the BJP’s pan-India ambition was fuelled further by its remarkable performance in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections followed by rejuvenating victories in state and local elections around the country. Its dream of a Congress-free India seems to be gaining steam with its rising popularity and nation-wide acceptance as the only dominant political force. There is already talk of an alliance called SEDA coming up in the South, on the lines of NEDA (North East Democratic Alliance), to put up a united front against regional satraps. If the alliance ever fructifies, BJP’s southern footprint won’t be a dream too far. After its rout in Delhi and Bihar in 2015, the BJP has indubitably taken its lessons with utter sincerity to continue with its national juggernaut.

The foray of the BJP into North East India in 2016 will go down in history as a once-in-a-lifetime event that nearly uprooted the all-time dominant party – Congress – from two of its long-standing strongholds in separate events. Of the eight Northeastern states, BJP now rules in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, and shares power with respective regional ruling parties in Nagaland and Sikkim. Its first major victory was in Assam in 2016. With its uniquely crafted agenda of poriborton (change) and promise to bring a permanent solution to the problem of illegal migration, the mission Assam was a hit, thereby leading to the formation of a regional non-Congress alliance called NEDA under the convenorship of Congress defector Himanta Biswa Sarma who is well-cherished for scripting BJP’s Assam conquest. His alienation with the Congress proved a boon for the BJP.  As BJP’s poll strategist, Sarma proved his worth by helping the party win its first-ever seats in the Manipur by-elections in 2015.

ASSAM, INDIA – MARCH 26, 2016: Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Bharatiya Janata Party’s Sarbananda Sonowal as he is given a traditional Assamese mask. Image source: Ujjal Deb/ Hindustan Times via Getty Images

With his magical turnaround plan that helped the BJP to get its hand on the one-time Congress bastion, Assam, the Sarma-led NEDA captured another Congress-ruled state, Arunachal Pradesh, in a matter of months. Having bagged Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, the saffron party-led alliance is now eying up Manipur, Meghalaya and Mizoram. The fundamental planks that kept the saffron brigade afloat in Assam and mass defection in Arunachal may also work in its favour in these three Congress bastions. The fact that the Northeastern states are heavily dependent on central funds for development works in the region cannot be brushed aside. Therefore, welcoming the ruling dispensation at the centre becomes more of a necessity.

The demonetisation blues that gripped the entire nation seemingly failed to catch up with the upbeat mood of Northeasterners that supported Modi’s war on black cash like nobody else did. The fact is more palpable from the party’s victory in by-elections in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh post demonetisation. As the assembly poll is currently underway in trouble-torn Manipur, it remains to be seen how the BJP performs there.

Even if the people of Manipur unseat their three-time CM Ibobi Singh and the mandate goes in BJP’s favour, the crisis of economic blockade in the state needs an immediate solution. The BJP needs to bring its good rapport to bear with the Naga population to bring them to terms with the Meiteis. On the face of it, the historical discord between the people of the hills and the valley has been further exacerbated by the failure of the Ibobi-led Congress government in Manipur to discreetly handle the situation and find an amicable solution to the months-long economic impasse.

The BJP’s win must ensure that it doesn’t repeat the same mistakes. Whatever may be the political ideology of the winning party, it is all the more important for the party to make sure that the regional sentiments and sensibilities are not skated over for measly political gains. As the new India progresses towards a more mature democracy, the politics of xenophobia, parochialism and jingoism will be a thing of the past, lest we forget!

A version of this article has been published elsewhere.

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Image source: Sonu Mehta/ Hindustan Times via Getty Images

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