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BJP’s pan north east presence and challenges

As the political fever came down in region after conclusion of assembly elections in the three north eastern states, with BJP emerging strong and making again a case of shedding its image of ‘Hindi heartland’ party, its top rung ministers are now in a public relation overdrive in the region to sell the theory that the saffron brigade was the only altertive for the seven sisters.
There is tectonic shift in the politics of the region. Consider just two statistics: Before Prime Minister rendra Modi and Amit Shah had moved centre stage of tiol politics, the Congress was in power in five of seven northeastern states. The BJP was nonexistent. Right now, the BJP and its allies are in power in five states (Assam, Aruchal Pradesh, Manipur, galand, Tripura), Meghalaya the party is a partner in the government. At this juncture Congress has just one left in kitty: Mizoram which will go to polls by end of the year.
Consider also that in 2013, BJP candidates in Tripura lost their deposits in 49 of 50 seats. Five years later, BJP has formed the government with more than 43 percent vote share. Statistics, it is said, conceal more than they reveal but in this case they capture accurately the extent of political realignment that has taken place. This realignment says volumes about BJP’s elasticity.
The saffron brigade ever expanding presence in the North East makes BJP a true pan-India party.  But the road so far has not been easy for BJP in the region where the party had to reinvent itself and come out of Hindutava hangover to make a mark in electoral politics in the region. This mutation is easier for a party such as the Congress which can be different things to different social groups and communities but considerably tougher for a party such as the BJP which operates within an ideological straitjacket.
Among the three northeastern states, the results are the most dramatic in Tripura. A deep dive into the ture of the mandate shows that BJP’s vote share has increased from 1.5 percent in 2013 to 43 percent in 2018. Though Modi sarkar upstaged 25-year-old Manik Sarkar in this border state,  CPM still maged to retain 43 percent vote share.
Ideally, Congress, with an already established voter base and party structure in Tripura, should have been the beneficiary of anti-incumbency sentiment. Instead, we saw BJP — which had zero presence in the state in terms of voter base or organisatiol strength — sweeping the anti-incumbency votes and tapping into the fatigue among new generation of voters who wanted someone new instead of the two-and-half-decade old Manik Sarkar government.
The BJP was able to do that because Modi and Shah correctly recognised that BJP’s tiol footprint could only be expanded if it is ready to make compromises with its ideological moorings because India is not only a very large country, but also an incredible amalgamation of diverse groups, faiths and communities.
Union minister Kiren Rijijiu on his recent visit said the attention of the Centre towards the northeast  has been changed since 2014 after NDA came to power. If the poll statistics are anything to go by than Rijijus assertion is right to some extent.The ruling BJP celebrated its 38th foundation day on April 6, perhaps in its most challenging times in recent years. BJP leaders believe they have much to celebrate,the party ruling 20 of the 31 state Assemblies besides being in power at the Centre is one of them.However, despite the expansion in north east, the BJP faces a stiff challenge to retain the electoral hold in upcoming general elections of 2019 with party’s fortunes taking a swing at the tiol level.

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Ankur Kalita