General elections in India are known for the unexpected surprises that they spring on the electorate. The latest Assembly elections in the three States of Meghalaya, galand and Tripura were no exception in this regard. In Tripura, the Left front led by the CPI(M) that had been in power for 25 years, witnessed the most unexpected change with the BJP winning better than a two thirds majority with 43 seats in a 60-member House. Chief Minister Manik Sarkar who had provided leadership to his party for all these years was obliged to submit his resigtion to the Governor of Tripura. The CPI(M) maged to win just 16 seats. One of the main reasons for this remarkable transformation in electoral preferences was the ambience of fear that the CPI(M) had maged to create during the last quarter century. That apart, the people of Tripura had reasons to be greatly worried about the large influx of migrants from Bangladesh that had brought about significant demographic changes in the State. The State also had very few institutions of higher education. Quite obviously, the clean administration that Manik Sarkar had been able to provide was not the last word for the people of Tripura in assessing the government’s performance. A desire for a change from the existing scerio seems to have been the deciding factor for the electorate.
In galand the NDPP-BJP alliance led by Neiphiu Rio, has claimed the support of 32 MLAs (18 NDPP legislators, 12 from the BJP, one from the Jata Dal United and an Independent). However, Chief Minister T.R.Zeliang, a former ally of the BJP, had refused to resign and staked claim to power, claiming that he was in touch with the tiol party and that his NPF-led alliance had the largest number of 29 MLAs. galand Governor P.B. Acharya asked both NDPP leader Neiphiu Rio and Zeliang to submit signed documents backing their claims of support. Apparently, Rio, accompanied by BJP leader Ram Madhav, submitted letters of support to the Governor, but Acharya was seeking documents signed by the respective party presidents. Experience had taught him how important this was. He had requested Rio to give him letters of support signed by all 18 elected NDPP MLAs. He sought such letters also from the 12 elected BJP MLAs signed by the BJP president within 24 hours. He insisted that the lone JDU member also had to submit a letter from his tiol president Nitish Kumar. In a sense, galand has ended up with a government without any opposition.
In Meghalaya, no political party was anywhere near even a bare majority. In a 60-member House, the Congress had 21 seats and the tiol People’s Party (NPP) had 19. Yet it was the NPP-led Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) that was sworn in by Governor Ganga Prasad on Tuesday. NPP president Conrad Sangma, son of Purno Sangma was sworn in as the Chief Minister of the new alliance that has eight MLAs from the UDP-HSPDP alliance, four from the PDF, two from the BJP and one Independent taking the total to 34—three over the minimum required for a bare majority.
The interesting political change in the Northeast is the rapid gains that the BJP has made in virtually all the States except Meghalaya. Its best performance has been in Tripura, where from virtually no presence at all, it maged to win 43 out of 60 seats. Even greater is its credit at having been able to end the CPI(M) hegemony of a quarter century. This time the CPI(M) was able to win only 16 seats in Tripura. It now remains to be seen what the BJP is able to do with it new-found popularity in the Northeast. A one-time ascent to power in States like Tripura and galand is unlikely to count for much unless this performance can be sustained through performance. A welcome feature of the polity of this region is the importance lately given to performance. Winning the present Assembly elections this time or repeating the performance five years later will count only if the party can make its mark through performance and make significant contributions to the development of the region.