Agartala, Kohima and Shillong are so far from the heat and dust of Delhi that elections in the Northeast have often been overshadowed by many in the rest of the country even in the past. India Like passing footnotes. As Meghalaya and Nagaland vote, make no mistake, the current elections have important national implications. Tripura has already voted and the results of these three states will provide an indicator on the stability of deep changes in India’s politics.
First, over the past eight years, the BJP has gradually replaced the Congress as the primary national party in the northeastern region. The results on March 2 will be a marker of the long-term sustainability of that deep change.
Five years ago, in Nagaland, the Naga People’s Front (NPF) was the largest party with 26 out of 60 seats, but CM Neiphiu Riu’s Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) with 17 seats, and the BJP with 12 together formed an alliance. coalition government. This time, they are continuing their alliance – NDPP fighting on 40 seats and BJP on 20.
The BJP has opened its account in Akulotu constituency with one of its candidates, Kazeto Kinimi, elected unopposed. With the Congress contesting 23 seats in Nagaland, the state election will be a crucial test case.
Similarly, there has been a lot of change in politics in Meghalaya since the last elections held in 2018. The Congress, which last had 21 MLAs in the 60-member house, has since lost all of them to defections by the Trinamool Congress and others.
The BJP, which had two seats in 2018, had earlier joined hands with Konrad Sangma’s National People’s Party (NPP) and the ruling coalition, but has since parted ways. Union Home Minister Amit Shah accused Sangma of doing ‘family politics’ during the election campaign. The party is contesting on all 60 assembly seats this time.
Congress is fighting on all 60 seats as well. The Trinamool Congress, led by former chief minister Mukul Sangma, has tweaked its pitch, which broke away from the Congress along with a handful of MLAs and mounted a challenge. In a state where the Congress claims it is rebuilding its leadership, and various parties are using the ‘outsider’ narrative, the political chessboard has been significantly rearranged in that sense.
At a time when the Congress is positioning itself as the pivot of opposition unity ahead of 2024, Meghalaya offers a microcosm of the nature of the challenge there with regional parties like the Trinamool Congress.
Second, both Meghalaya and Nagaland are largely tribal states with mostly Christian populations. These are both groups that the BJP has worked hard to woo in recent years.
87.9% of Nagaland and 74.4% of Meghalaya are Christians. The BJP’s electoral progress in these and other northeastern states after 2018 allowed the party to claim that it was more than a Hindi-Hindu party. Its strategic suitability in the region, working very differently from its messaging in the Hindi heartland, has made the symbolism of the victory huge in these states. The party’s outreach in the Northeast works differently than in the Hindi heartland.
In Tripura, the BJP, which toppled the Left in 2018, is facing a new challenge this time from the Tipraha Indigenous Progressive Regional Alliance (Tipra Motha). The outcome will be a good test of the impact and durability of the drastic change brought about by its rise in the state’s traditional politics, which was divided between the Left and the Congress.
The third is the narrative of growth and the view that since 2014 there has been a substantial increase in focused spending on the sector. This is the primary push in the BJP’s political outreach, where it is constantly trying to differentiate between its approach and that of Congress governments.
time Narendra Modi For example, in its previous rallies in Meghalaya and Nagaland, it accused the Congress governments of “using the Northeast as an ATM”. Now, he said, the sector was seen as a “growth engine” for India, as he put it, “Ashtlakshmi(Eight forms of Goddess Lakshmi).
This political outpouring by PM Modi is based on a significant increase in government spending in this sector in recent years. The approved central expenditure on schemes for this sector for the remaining period of the 15th Finance Commission (2022-23 to 2025-26) is Rs 12882.2 crore. Recently, PM-DEVINE (Prime Minister’s Development Initiative for the North Eastern Region) earmarked Rs 6,600 crore for progress in the region between 2022-23 and 2056-26.
The BJP won 14 of the 25 Lok Sabha seats in the Northeast in 2019, emerging as the single largest party in the wider region. As we head towards the next national election in 2024, its changing fortunes here will not only have significant implications overall but also immense symbolic value. That is why the results in these three states will be an important indicator of the season and a key pointer for the way forward.
Nalin Mehta, a writer and academic, is Dean of the School of Modern Media at UPES University in Dehradun, a Non-Resident Senior Fellow, Institute of South Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore and Group Consulting Editor, Network18. He is the author of The New BJP: Modi and the Making of the World’s Largest Political Party. The views expressed are personal.
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