The BJP’s show in the elections of Tripura and galand has been commendable. In Tripura, it has been total disbelief to the party itself as it has forced an exit on the clean-image-bearing Manik Sarkar-led Left formation. The only citadel of the Left that remained after Kerala following the ouster of the Left in West Bengal – its chief fort then – is history now, no matter how fondly many in Tripura and in the rest of the Northeast would remember the honest man in Sarkar. That he was invited to the swearing-in ceremony of the new BJP government in the State on Friday in the presence of Prime Minister rendra Modi and party chief Amit Shah speaks volumes of his charisma as a leader of the masses, with no taint to besmirch him throughout his chief ministership and despite his loss at the hustings. Even so, the fact remains that he lies vanquished, with the BJP making tall promises of a new era in the State.
Forty-eight-year-old Biplab Kumar Deb is the Chief Minister of Tripura, his party in its spirited avatar being in alliance with the ethnic political formation of the State – the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT) – that has demanded upgrade of the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council into a full-fledged State. In the run-up to the polls, the Left and the Congress had vehemently opposed the demand, with the BJP playing safe and perhaps awaiting the right time to play its cards as it had struck a deal with the indigenous outfit to kick the Left out. This task being now accomplished, and with the party itself leading the new government assisted by the IPFT, it now remains to be seen how the saffron party deals with the sensitive issue. The crux of the matter, nonetheless, is that tribals or indigenous groups in Tripura have always grumbled against their domition by Bengali migrants of East Bengal/ East Pakistan/ Bangladesh descent. And their fears are genuine too, given the topsy-turviness of the State’s demographic profile due solely to influx from across the border. How the BJP tackles this sensitivity, genuineness and fear, is a million-dollar question. But it is an issue that the party must have to take a call on.
That said, a small note on the Left’s decimation is imperative. This has been called the party of the masses – the proletariat in the communist parlance. But with changing times, thanks to the rapidity of globalization and liberalization, and the attendant rise of free-market economy embraced by communist Chi too in its bid to rise to intertiol economic stardom (with greater zest in recent times after the arrival of Xi Jingpin at the helm of affairs, now to perhaps continue for years together in the wake of a crucial amendment effected in the Chinese Constitution that now allows the Chinese President more than two consecutive terms), the Left has become a spent force in India. Or it would not be wrong to say that the Left has allowed itself to be reduced to a spent force due to its self-righteous obduracy not to change with times. In Tripura, this fact apart, there was definitely anti-incumbency at work too. And when the indigenous factor came in with the Statehood demand of the IPFT that allied eventually with the Right, coupled with the latter’s Hindu-Bangladeshis-as-persecuted-refugees advocacy calling for citizenship for them, the game had to be different. And the result is there for all to see – despite the clean administration provided by the former Chief Minister, the poorest one in the whole of the country in terms of cash and other assets.
The task for the new Chief Minister is cut out. He is young. He seems to be dymic. Prime Minister Modi, on Friday, described the State cabinet led by Biplab Kumar Deb as new and fresh who have a vision for the State, and assured the new team of all support from the Centre. This is what he said after the swearing-in ceremony: “They are fresh, young and have a vision and agility for work. I am confident that with the blessings of the people of Tripura, they will be able to convert it into a developed State.”
While that may be in the realm of imagition, especially when the party has had its unprecedented sweep in yet another northeastern State after the Sarbanda Sonowal-led Assam story about two years back, the requirements of the time are: (1) allaying of indigenous fears and pragmatic response to their genuine grievances of underdevelopment, domition and exploitation; (2) pro-indigenous resolution of the influx imbroglio; (3) solution to the problem of unemployment; (4) betterment of educatiol and health facilities, or their modernization, rather, in sync with what is happening in advanced States; and (5) infrastructure development and industrialization. Will Deb rise to the occasion and let his people cherish the mandate they have given him for the next five years? Time will tell.
galand is a bit different story, with the saffron party finishing second with 12 seats and sharing power with the Neiphiu Rio-led tiol Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) with 18 seats in the 60-member Assembly. The ubiquitous problems of unemployment (which has caused a massive drain of young and educated ga talent out of the State to places like Delhi and Bangalore) and lack of infrastructure for all-round development apart (with the concomitant need for industrialization, of course), the haunting conundrum is what one calls ‘solution to the ga problem’ – a reference in vogue for long as to the need to settle the issue of Greater galand or galim encompassing present-day galand and parts of Assam, Manipur and Aruchal Pradesh that the NSCN-IM leadership calls ‘ga areas’ that must be incorporated in any new political and geographic ga-inhabited structure.
There is already a so-called framework agreement in place between the Centre and the NSCN-IM leadership towards resolution of the vexed issue – an agreement whose salient feature is its secrecy until now. The three neighbouring States are firmly opposed to any notion of Greater galand that would have them lose their precious areas. Autonomy to the proposed new galand political architecture is another migraine of sorts – the picture is vague, and one wonders whether the BJP-led Centre, with its present ally at Kohima, would agree to all the autonomy proposals of the militant outfit in question, which has been the chief player in the game all these years. These are all big and utterly confusing riddles. How these will be cracked for once and for all, the BJP at the Centre should know. And it should have been disclosing everything transparently by now. Which has not happened for reasons best known to it.
Be that as it may, in power in Assam, Aruchal, Manipur and Tripura, and sharing power in galand, the BJP has an upper hand in the Northeast. How sustaible its upper hand will be, and how it graduates to a political outfit wedded to the regiolist/ subtiolist aspirations of the region along with its vaunted projects defining sabkaa saath, sabkaa vikaas specific to this region, will define its bloom in the times to come. Mere slogans will not do, nor will tall promises made just for the sake of it all. What will do is action. And this takes determition and an honest will to serve the ones who have given it a thumping mandate to preside over their precarious destinies.