IMPHAL/SHILLONG: Amidst the gradual souring of relations between the BJP and its NDA ally the National People's Party (NPP), the dominant party in the Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) Government, the saffron party's alliance with the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) in Manipur was cut after 5 of its 6 MLAs joined the BJP.
Last month, Techi Kaso, the lone JD-U legislator in Arunachal Pradesh, joined the ruling BJP.
The move by the MLAs happened after Bihar Chief Minister and JD-U leader Nitish Kumar earlier last month dumped the BJP and joined hands with Tejashwi Yadav's Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), the Congress and other parties.
Reacting to the Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh developments, a visibly annoyed Nitish Kumar before meeting several Opposition leaders in New Delhi slammed the BJP, saying that this is the reason why he snapped ties with the saffron party.
"The JD-U MLAs in Manipur were ready to come to Patna for the national executive committee meeting. They were happy about coming to Patna. But the BJP snatched them from us. They do not believe in democracy," he had said in Patna.
After his three-day "successful" visit to the national capital, Kumar had said that he is trying to unite the Opposition leaders and he would continue to do so to defeat the BJP in the 2024 parliamentary elections.
While the JD-U leader said that he is not the Prime Ministerial candidate of the Opposition parties and a decision would be taken in two to three months, political parties in the Northeastern region said that it is too early to decide the PM candidate for the 2024 elections.
According to political observers, the JD-U is yet to expand its organizational and political base in all the Northeastern States.
In the February-March Assembly election in Manipur, the JD-U had fielded 38 candidates against the BJP and won six seats in the 60-member Assembly. After the announcement of the election results, the party extended its support to the BJP Government headed by Chief Minister Biren Singh. The 38 candidates were mostly dissident leaders from other parties or those who deserted the Congress or the BJP.
The CPI-M, Congress and the Trinamool Congress (TMC) leaders in the Northeastern States said that they would decide their future course as the political situation evolves before the general elections.
Former Meghalaya Chief Minister (2010-2018) and Congress-turned-TMC leader Mukul Sangma, who is the Opposition leader in the Meghalaya Assembly, said that his party led by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee would decide about the Opposition PM candidate and other aspects related to the 2024 elections "at an appropriate time".
"Lots of political dynamics would obviously unfold ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. We have to see how the political parties, especially the non-BJP parties ally themselves. The Assembly elections will be held in Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura early next year," Sangma told IANS over phone.
He said: "Assembly elections in a few other States would be held before the 2024 general elections and obviously ahead of the general elections there must be alignment and realignment among the parties and we have to see how the situation evolves."
After 12 of the 17 Congress MLAs led by Sangma joined the TMC in November last year, the West Bengal-based party became the main Opposition party in the 60-member Meghalaya Assembly, elections to which along with Tripura and Nagaland are barely six months away.
The five remaining Congress MLAs, led by Ampareen Lyngdoh, had earlier announced to join the NPP-led MDA Government.
In the backdrop of the changing political situation in Meghalaya, NPP supremo Sangma announced that his party will not have a pre-poll alliance with any party and will contest next year's assembly elections on its own, leading to confusion among the MDA allies - UDP, PDF and HSPDP.
"The NPP has always contested polls on its own. We will not have a pre-poll alliance and this has been our stand in all elections and does not change this time too," Sangma said in Shillong.
The leaders of the Congress party, which still has a reasonable presence in most of the Northeastern States, and the Left parties which have a strong base in Tripura and dwindling support in Assam and Manipur, remained noncommittal on the PM candidate issue.
Political pundits observed that the non-BJP parties may not get the maximum electoral mileage from the Northeastern States in the 2024 general elections.
"Of the eight Northeastern States, BJP runs governments in four States while the NDA allies govern the remaining four states (Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Sikkim). The regional and local parties in different Northeastern States grabbed the space left vacant by the Congress," political commentator Satyabrata Chakraborti told IANS.
He said: "In the three Christian-dominated States of Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland, the BJP could not set up much of a political base forcing the party to depend on its allies."
Out of the 25 Lok Sabha seats in the eight Northeastern states, the highest number of 14 seats are currently with the BJP, while only four seats belong to the Congress (three in Assam and one in Meghalaya), one to the Maulana Badruddin Ajmal-led All India United Democratic Front in Assam (AIUDF).
The remaining five seats are held by the BJP's allies - Naga People's Front in Manipur, Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party in Nagaland, National People's Party in Meghalaya, Mizo National Front in Mizoram and Sikkim Krantikari Morcha in Sikkim. (IANS)