Impressive election victories in India’s Northeast region

0
Share
Narendra Modi, Amit Shah and Biplab Kumar Deb. (Courtesy: Twitter/ @narendramodi)

A triumphant Prime Minister Narendra Modi, officiated at the March 9 swearing-in of the new Bharatiya Janata Party-led government in Tripura where the 25-years of communist rule ended, making BJP the dominant party in 6 of the 7 Northeastern states, and raised its national tally as party in power to 21 of 29 state governments.

The latest victories come as a general election looms ahead next year when Modi and his BJP will face the electorate again after the stunning victories in 2014.

Modi was joined by a host of Central ministers and leaders and Chief Ministers of several BJP-ruled states at the swearing-in-ceremony of new Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb and his Council of Ministers on March 9, Indo Asian News Service reported.

At the swearing-in held in Agartala’s Assam Rifles Ground, Modi promised a “new chapter” in development for the Northeast (https://www.facebook.com/narendramodi)

Addressing a crowd of thousands there to watch the BJP’s take over Modi said, “I assure you that those who voted for us, this government is also for them. And for those who did not vote for us, this government is for them also.” He noted that this time around, the elections in the Northeast had come to national attention. “My citizens living in far off places, should feel they are part of Bharat,” Modi said. “That every Hindustani is emotionally connected to this region, has emerged,” he added.

“In the past four years I have come to northeast India more than 25 times — this is much more than what previous Prime Ministers did after independence. This confirms how much the Centre is concerned for the development and welfare of northeast India,” Modi is quoted saying in an Indo Asian News Service report.

“The historic victory in Tripura is as much an ideological one. It is a win for democracy over brute force and intimidation,” Modi said on Twitter March 3 when results were declared, adding, “We will provide Tripura the good government that the state deserves.”

Already in power in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur, the BJP is now leading the government in Tripura, is a major player in the coalition government in Nagaland, and expanding its base in Meghalaya, the March 3 election results showed.

Under Modi’s leadership in New Delhi, the BJP has chalked up wins in 7 more states since 2014, not least because of Modi’s campaign style combined with the party’s grassroots election machinery, analysts note.

The BJP secured 35 seats in the 60-member Tripura Assembly, with the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT), a tribes-based party, securing 8. The CPI-M got 16 seats, while the Left Front partners — Communist Party of India, Congress Party, the Forward Bloc and Revolutionary Socialist Party won none.

“No political prime minister in recent past has invested so much politically in the north-east,” Prashant Jha, political editor at The Hindustan Times, and author of the book, How The BJP Wins, is quoted saying in the Financial Times.

Public policy consultant Mohitkumar Dagga says in the Economic Times, that the BJP strategy “sought to play on an optimal mix of the promise of development, localization of identity and ideology and prudent coalition-building.”

Meanwhile, in Nagaland’s 60-member Assembly, the BJP became an important partner in the Progressive Democratic Alliance which was sworn in March 8. Its 32-member majority includes 18 from the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP), 12 from the BJP, one from the Janata Dal-United and an Independent.

Even though the Congress did well in Meghalaya, where it won 21 of the 59 contested seats, the government was formed by the Meghalaya Democratic Alliance where the National People’s Party which won 19 seats aligned with the United Democratic Party that secured 6 seats, and Hill State People’s Democratic Party with its 2 seats. The BJP won 2 seats, expanding its presence, the People’s Democratic Front won 4, the NCP, 1, and three Independents.

The BJP is “reshaping the political landscape,” with its electoral advances in the 3 states, a Reuters report said quoting figures from the 2011 Census which shows they have a population totaling some 9 million and where according to the Election Commission figures some 5.6 million people turned out to vote.

The BJP’s surge in the Northeast where it had virtually no presence a few years ago, is a balm after the less-than-expected showing in the recent Gujarat elections.

Political analyst Arati Jerath, writing in The Quint, observed that the political equation had changed from one where mainstream India had paid little attention to elections in the Northeast. “The BJP has changed that by storming into territories hitherto off-limits to saffron forces, with a formidable display of election muscle,” Jerath said, adding that the “lean mean poll machine” of the BJP had trounced the “flabby” Left and Congress.

According to Jerath, the Northeast wins signify national trends like the withering away of the Left as a political force in Indian politics; the nimbleness and flexibility of the BJP’s politics, where it is willing and able to build alliances, including those that require it play down its Hindu nationalist proclivities.

Modi had campaigned intensively in the three states, and in a tweet attributed the victory to the “development oriented agenda” of his National Democratic Alliance, which already controls Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh. Mizoram, which is ruled by the Congress, goes to the polls later this year. Most analysts agreed that the victories bode well for the BJP heading into the national general elections in 2019.

“Victory after victory is a positive sign. This has boosted our confidence even more for 2019,” Amit Shah, the president of BJP is quoted saying in a Reuters report.

“The outcome of assembly elections in three north-eastern states — the BJP (with ally IPFT) won a majority in Tripura, wrested power in Nagaland (with the NDPP) and consolidated base in Meghalaya — will send out a positive signal to the market, which is bracing for a spike in volatility with a host of crucial state polls lining up,” said the Economic Times.

“With two more north-eastern states in its kitty, the BJP seems to be transforming into a truly national party,” D.K. Aggarwal of SMC Investments and Advisors, told the Economic Times. “The results have come against the backdrop of some competition in the recent state elections and thus, the outcome should boost BJP’s chances in the 2019’s general elections,”