DC Edit | BJP sets high stakes in Northeast states’ polls

Update: 2023-02-03 19:34 GMT
The BJP has suspended 12 rebels who had filed their nominations as independent candidates after being denied tickets by the party in the Gujarat Assembly elections. (Representational image: ANI)

The BJP putting high stakes in the elections to the forthcoming Assembly elections in Tripura, Meghalaya and Nagaland reflects the party’s meticulous and long-term plan for expanding its footprint in the states other than those in the Hindi heartland and the west and the party’s strategy to retain or enhance its numbers in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

The BJP’s mega push in the Northeast started in 2016 with the formation of the North Eastern Democratic Alliance, a platform of non-Congress parties in the region with the declared aim to keep the Congress out of power. Its successful run started with the unseating of the CPI(M), which had been long entrenched in power in Tripura, followed by the comprehensive win in Assam, defeating the Congress. It continued with the BJP entering into various kinds of alliances, and sometimes even gobbling up partners in states, and the result is that the party at present runs governments in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Tripura while it is part of the ruling alliance in Meghalaya, Mizoram and Sikkim. The party is going it alone in Tripura and Meghalaya for the Assembly elections while it will be a junior partner in Nagaland.

The BJP has been in power at the Centre for about 15 years in its 42 years of existence and has swept the last two Lok Sabha elections but there are not too many states where it can win an Assembly election hands down. The Hindi heartland states, save Uttar Pradesh, have made other choices several times; the results to the Himachal Pradesh Assembly are the latest example. The South continues to offer stiff resistance to the party’s brand of politics, what with the regional outfits occupying commanding heights of the polity; the party’s standing is not safe even in Karnataka where it runs a government. The eastern states remain impregnable despite the hard work the party has been putting in for years. The party has, however, built itself brick by brick in all these states and it could take time before it gets translated into parliamentary numbers. That the BJP has no major ally in states except perhaps for Maharashtra must be another factor worrying the party’s poll managers.

The eight northeastern states together send 25 members of the Lok Sabha with the largest contingent of 14 coming from Assam. The Congress held the major sway in most of these seats in its heydays but later gave way to state parties. The BJP has been attempting to replace the Congress in all these seats. The efforts of the home ministry keeping Assam chief minister Himanta Biswas Sarma at the centrepoint to sew up agreements between states on border disputes also must be seen in this light.

Recent reports suggested that the BJP will be channelising its efforts into 160 Lok Sabha seats which it feels are shaky while it will be reaching out to the minority communities in 60 seats where they have a significant presence. The BJP has evolved an electioneering pattern where it has a plan for every seat, and the renewed thrust neatly squares with it.

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