New Delhi: The growing political dominance of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) under Prime Minister Narendra Modi was visible yet again in the assembly polls in three northeastern states, with the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) all set to form the government in Tripura and Nagaland, and engaged in hectic parlays with regional parties to keep the Congress out in Meghalaya.
Senior BJP leaders are of the view that the rise of the BJP-led NDA in the North-East not only establishes the alliance as the principal political entity but also endorses the personal popularity of Modi. The extent of the BJP’s success in the North-East can be gauged from the fact that the NDA is currently in power in five of the seven states.
“BJP is often touted as the political party of the Hindi heartland but the victory in Tripura and Nagaland has removed this tag. We are hopeful that BJP-NDA would also be able to form government in Meghalaya. The three elections are significant because people who have come forward to support Prime Minister are Bengalis, tribals and Christians. There have been deliberate attempts to malign the image of the party but this victory is a significant endorsement of Narendra Modi as a leader,” said a senior BJP leader in Delhi.
The recent expansion of the BJP in the Northeast has come at the cost of the Congress party. Among the top leaders who joined the BJP from Congress are Himanta Biswa Sarma, the chief of Northeast Democratic Alliance (NEDA) and senior minister in the Assam government, Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Pema Khandu, and Manipur chief minister of Nongthombam Biren Singh. Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal had joined BJP from the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP).
“The BJP has emerged as the most important political party in the North-East and the NDA plays a decisive role in each of the states, so it is obvious that political leaders and parties would come towards the BJP. The misrepresentation of BJP’s ideology has evaporated as political leaders are joining the party,” the BJP leader added.
Members of the BJP explain that the assembly election results in the three states are also significant because, for the first time, a national party other than the Congress is playing an important role in the regional politics in all the northeastern states.
“Till now, the politics of North-East used to revolve around Congress and other regional parties, with the exception of Tripura. But now things have changed. Election results of Meghalaya, Tripura and Nagaland have broken the jinx and a new national party is playing an important role in the Northeast,” the BJP leader said.
BJP leaders also argue that while the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)—the ideological parent of the BJP—has been active in the North-East for several years, the BJP is benefitting from it only now because the party has taken a conscious decision to expand its organizational base in all seven states by taking the help of affiliated organizations of the RSS.
“RSS was present, but what the BJP was lacking for all these years was leadership and organizational network. But now, with the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and an organizational network, electoral results are in favour of the BJP,” said the leader.
Political analysts feel the lack of development and anti-incumbency were the two major factors that worked in favour of the NDA in the elections, especially in Tripura. “Alliances with regional parties, lack of development, and unemployment helped the NDA in Tripura and other northeastern states. People were looking for change because of the 25-year rule of the Left parties,” said Gautam Chakma, head of political science department at Tripura University.