Rajat Sharma

North-East results: Cheers for BJP, Lessons for Congress

AKB30 The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party on Thursday scored a comfortable majority in Tripura assembly elections, while in Nagaland, the NDPP-BJP combine swept the polls. In Meghalaya, which threw up a hung assembly, the ruling NPP, led by chief minister Conrad Sangma emerged as the single largest party, and is set to form the government again with support from BJP.

Addressing party workers outside the BJP headquarters in Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi thanked the voters of all three states and lashed out at the opposition. He said, there were slogans of ‘Modi Teri Qabr Khudegi’(Modi, your grave will be dug), but the people of north-east have chosen the lotus (BJP poll symbol). “Some kattar (fanatical) people were saying ‘mar jaa Modi’, but the nation is saying ‘mat jaa Modi’ (Don’t go Modi).

Modi said, BJP has won the hearts of the people of north-east. “Now, North-East is neither far from Delhi nor from ‘dil’ (heart)..I am surprised why those from the opposition have not blamed EVM (electronic vote machine) bungling this time”, Modi said.

The Prime Minister said, contrary to the assumptions of many people that minorities avoided supporting the BJP, Thursday’s poll results have made it clear that the Christians in Meghalaya and Nagaland have supported his party. He lashed out at Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge for saying that all the three were “small states of North-East which generally go with Central Government trend”.

“By saying this, the Congress President has insulted the mandate. Because of such a mindset of belittling the north-eastern states, the Congress party is losing elections continuously”, Modi said.

The Prime Minister said, in earlier days, BJP was being dubbed as a ‘bania party’ and a ‘Hindi belt party’, but the people of North-East have now opted for BJP. He promised that Kerala will also get a BJP government one day.

In Tripura, BJP won 32 out of a total of 60 assembly seats, while in Nagaland, BJP won 12 while its ally National Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) won 25 seats, this giving the combine a clear majority in the 60-seat assembly. In Meghalaya, chief minister Conrad Sangma’s National People’s Party (NPP) won 26 seats, while BJP won two seats. Sangma is going to form a government with the support of some other smaller parties in a House of 60.

The Congress failed to open its account in Nagaland, while in Meghalaya, it won five seats, and in Tripura, it won only three seats despite allying with CPI(M) which won 11 seats. A new regional party, Tipra Motha party, led by ex-ruler Pradyot Dev Burman, won 13 seats.

Narendra Modi never misses a big stroke in the game of politics. He knows the art of converting attacks from political rivals into opportunities. He plainly told the Congress that by dubbing North-East states as “small”, the party itself is becoming smaller by the day.

The electoral victory in North-East is the result of Modi’s long-term strategy. When he became the PM in 2014, there was not a single state in the North-East where BJP was in power. Only in Arunachal Pradesh, in 2003, BJP had formed a government for a brief period. After becoming the PM, Modi focused on development in the North-East and tried to connect the north-eastern states with the national mainstream. As a result, the biggest north-eastern state, Assam, was captured by BJP, where the party won two consequent assembly elections, and now, in Tripura, the party has registered its second consecutive win.

Presently, in six out of eight north-eastern states, BJP and its allies run governments. This is an achievement. Some people say that even if all the eight north-eastern states are combined, they cannot be compared to a big state in either the North, the West or the South. They ask whether Modi can reap political benefits on a national scale.

I feel, the victories in north-eastern states are surely going to yield good political dividends. One, BJP will come out of its old image of being a party from the Hindi-speaking belt. Two, there are 25 Lok Sabha seats in the North-East, and these seats matter during next year’s Lok Sabha elections.

The question now is: why Congress, which once used to wield a big influence in the North-East has been reduced to a small party? The answer lies in the casual approach of the party. The Congress leadership, sitting in Delhi, is trying to understand the North-East. It is neither in constant touch with the local leadership, nor does it listen to their advice. The latest example is that of Pradyot Dev Burman, former ex-ruler of Tripura and chief of Tipra Motha party. He was insulted and he had to leave the Congress.

In an interview on India TV, soon after the Tripura results were out, Pradyot Dev Burman said, ‘if Congress intends to give a fight to BJP, Rahul Gandhi must change his mindset and his advisers. Instead of sitting at home and listening to advisers who make his party lose, he must listen to those leaders who work on the ground. Only then can the Congress survive, otherwise events like Bharat Jodo Yatra will not help’.

Congress leadership is still unwilling to listen to sane advice. The party leadership says it lost in Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya due to “local factors”. In Tripura, the traditional pro-Left voters did not vote for Congres, while in Meghalaya, Mamata Banerjee’s TMC spoiled the chances of Congress and indirectly helped BJP.

On Thursday, after the election results were out, Mamata Banerjee said, her party will not enter into any alliance for next year’s Lok Sabha elections. “Let those who want to defeat BJP, support us”, she said.

In Tripura, her party failed to open its account despite getting less than one per cent vote share. She attributed her party’s defeat in Bengal’s Sagardighi assembly byelections to an “immoral alliance” between Congress and BJP.

“If we count the BJP vote percentage, the party has transferred its vote to the Congress”, said Mamata Banerjee. In Sagardighi, the Congress candidate Bayron Biswas defeated the TMC rival Debashis Banerjee by a margin on 23,000 votes while the BJP candidate Dilip Saha came third, getting 25,793 votes. The defeat in Sagardighi, a Muslim-dominated constituency, is surely a setback for Mamata Banerjee.

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