Voters show their identification cards as they wait in queues to cast their votes at a polling booth during the Tripura Assembly elections, in Rajnagar, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023. (Representational Image/PTI)
The chief ministers of three northeastern states are in the process of embarking on another five-year term after getting a fresh mandate from the people. Manik Saha enters his second term after successfully warding off fears of anti-incumbency. Mr Saha did not disappoint his party, the BJP, which replaced the dyed-in-the-wool saffron leader Biplab Deb with him, a Congressman for most of his political life. He won for his a party a second term in the state that had never before showed a leaning towards the party’s ideology.
National People’s Party head Conrad K. Sangma, too, has got a second consecutive mandate to run the state though his party has no absolute majority in the 60-member state Assembly. He, however, has the support of 45 members in the House, including that of the BJP and other smaller regional parties.
The case in Nagaland is slightly different. The four-time CM, Neiphiu Rio, of the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party, is starting his fifth, and the first consecutive stint with virtually no opposition as every party is now part of the ruling alliance.
A common single thread that binds all three governments is the BJP — it runs the government in Tripura and will either be part of or supporting the government in the other two. The North Eastern Democratic Alliance, the platform the party floated for the region, has now a say in all the seven states in the region.
It is a fact that the northeastern states have been kept off the national mainstream for long for a litany of reasons. The region has suffered in terms of development in infrastructure and medical and educational facilities. Not one state figures in the top layer of the Human Development Index yet. The social integration with the rest of India is still a work in progress. Militancy and insurgency have gripped the region for quite a long time.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been emphasising that his government has broken the stereotypical approach the Union governments have for the region and that the Centre is working hard to make the region part of the development project that is being rolled out in the rest of the country. The government cites Mr Modi’s own travel history to the region — he has travelled close to 50 times to the region in the last five years — to buttress the argument on its new focus. With Assam chief minister Himanta Sharma as the pointman, the BJP has been pushing for settling the border disputes lingering for decades among the northeastern states.
The peace process in Nagaland is also an unfinished agenda. The Union government and the militant organisations have been blowing hot and cold over it for some time now. The clamour for the formation of a greater Nagaland, one of the key demands of the major militant unit, is met with stiff resistance from other states.
While each one of the seven states has its own unique features, together they offer great opportunities for themselves and for the nation. A futuristic vision and imaginative steps are needed to realise them. The question is whether the governments in the states and at the Centre can rise to the challenge.