Agartala: Though the January 22 'Pran Pratishtha' ceremony of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya is likely to help the BJP attain electoral gains in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls in a few northeastern states, particularly in Assam and Tripura, the saffron party is still much ahead of the Congress-led opposition INDIA bloc.
The organisational base of the Congress, which governed several northeastern states for many decades, started declining in the region after 2018 as the saffron party gradually took over the lost base of the grand old party. The BJP also strengthened its hold in the region ever since the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led NDA government came to power at the Centre in 2014. After the Assembly elections in the five northeastern states in 2022 and 2023 – Manipur, Tripura, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Mizoram – the Congress’ position has further weakened in the region, while the BJP has only bolstered.
Political pundits said that though the BJP is in an advantageous position in the electoral battle ahead of the ensuing Lok Sabha elections, the Ram Mandir issue would definitely help the party in a few northeastern states, including Assam and Tripura, to consolidate its electoral strength.
“After the Pran Pratishtha ceremony in Ayodhya, the BJP would get electoral benefits in the upcoming general elections in Assam and Tripura and also in the Christian-dominated states to deal with their anti-incumbency factors,” political commentator Sekhar Datta told IANS.
He said the BJP would also try to gain electoral mileage by capitalizing the NDA government’s developmental schemes implemented in the northeastern states since the Modi government came to power 10 years ago.
Datta said: “During the past 10 years, not only infrastructure development, the northeastern region also witnessed all-round development in all sectors besides taming of the decades long insurgency problems in most of the northeastern states. The BJP certainly focuses on these matters in a big way.” Of the 25 Lok Sabha seats in the eight northeastern states, currently 14 (56 percent) are with the BJP while the Congress has 4 (16 percent).
The other Lok Sabha seats are held by the local and regional parties.
Out of the 498 MLAs in the eight northeastern states, including Sikkim, the BJP has 184 legislators (36.94 per cent) in seven states -- Assam (63), Arunachal Pradesh (41), Manipur (32), Tripura (32), Nagaland (12), Meghalaya (2), Mizoram (2).
On the other hand, of the 498 MLAs in these eight states, the Congress has only 44 legislators (8.83 percent) in six states -- Assam (26), Manipur (5), Meghalaya (5), Mizoram (1), Arunachal Pradesh (4) and Tripura (3).
The BJP has no representation in the Sikkim Assembly while the Congress has no legislators in Nagaland and Sikkim Assemblies.
The Congress had drawn a blank in the 2018 Assembly polls in Tripura and in Nagaland (both in 2018 and 2023). However, the party secured three seats in the Assembly polls held in Tripura last year in a seat adjustment deal with the CPI-M-led Left parties. Though the BJP periodically achieved electoral success in a few northeastern states, the saffron party's first state victory in the region was in Assam in 2016, two years after the Modi government came to power at the Centre in 2014.
In the 2019 parliamentary polls, the BJP in Assam increased its tally from 7 in 2014 to 9. Across northeast India, the BJP, which won eight seats in 2014, increased the seat tally to 14 in 2019. Together with its allies, the BJP won 18 out of the 25 seats in the eight northeastern states, the best ever performance by the saffron party in the region. Withdrawal of the Armed Forces (Special Power) Act, 1958 from most parts of the region, promulgation of the Inner Line Permit and signing of accords with several militant outfits in the region are also likely to help the BJP garner electoral support.
While the agitations against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) put the BJP in a slightly awkward position, the Central government is tactfully going ahead with the sensitive issue. The BJP is also likely to get electoral benefit in the Lok Sabha polls as the party is running governments in four of the eight northeastern states – Assam, Tripura, Manipur and Arunachal – while it is part of the governments in Meghalaya and Nagaland and its ally is running government in Sikkim. In the November 7 (2023) Assembly elections in Mizoram, the new party Zoram People’s Movement (ZPM) headed by former Congress leader and IPS officer-turned-politician Lalduhoma wrested power in the Christian-dominated state, handing a humiliating defeat to BJP’s ally Mizo National Front (MNF).
ZPM supremo Lalduhoma has announced that his party will not join any national-level alliance with the BJP-led NDA or the Congress-led INDIA bloc. Since 2014, the Congress suffered majors setback as prominent party leaders in the northeastern region left the grand old party.
They include Himanta Biswa Sarma, Sushmita Dev and Ripun Bora (Assam), Manik Saha and Ratan Lal Nath (Tripura), N. Biren Singh (Manipur), Pema Khandu (Arunachal Pradesh), Neiphiu Rio (Nagaland), and Mukul Sangma and Ampareen Lyngdoh (Meghalaya).
Political analyst Satyabrata Chakraborti said that the regional parties had emerged in the region highlighting the local and regional issues.
“Due to a lack of proactive leaders and central leaders' inactivity, the Congress gradually lost ground to the BJP and the regional parties,” he told IANS. Chakraborti, also a prominent writer, said that the Congress could not succeed in effectively dealing with insurgency, unemployment, connectivity, infrastructure development and solution to the diverse ethnic issues.
"The Congress also failed to exploit even whatever good steps were taken by the Congress governments at the Centre, including setting up of tribal autonomous councils in several northeastern states and making special safeguarding positions in the Constitutions,” he said. The political expert said that there is no big sign that the Congress would revive its position in the region with a multiplicity of around 400 tribes and diverse religions. (IANS)