The celebratory mood in the BJP is understandable. The BJP-led NDA government’s two years in office under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who took office on May 26, 2014, are to be celebrated in the “Vikas Parv” shows beginning Saturday at India Gate. The last 24 months have been eventful, to say the least. And just before the cake-cutting was to begin came the party’s victory in Assam. There are reasons why the party is particularly proud of its breakthrough in Assam in the Northeast. While the feeling that the national party is getting way ahead of itself in imagining total conquest after getting only a toehold in the region — apart from the Congress rebellion in Arunachal Pradesh making way for a new government — it can still savour the triumph in a gateway state with a totally different religious demographic.
Assam’s 34 per cent Muslims may have been seen as anathema to what the BJP is perceived to stand for. There is, however, a greater lesson for all in the Assam verdict in favour of change and for the BJP combine. The youth of the Northeast may be willing to vote for anyone who promises development rather than the tired shibboleths of Congress regimes about inclusiveness, etc. The changing demographics also showed youth forming a substantial proportion of the electorate and their question was why is it that the youth of the Northeast have to go to Kolkata, Chennai and Bengaluru for jobs. Facilitating the aspirations of the youth will be the real challenge for Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal as well as anyone looking at the whole of the long-neglected Northeast as a vehicle for political ambitions.
The flush of triumph, enhanced by the BJP show of solidarity in the presence of an array of Union ministers and chief ministers in Guwahati, besides Mr Modi making a dash so soon after his return from Tehran, may not last long before demands for real administrative change rise. The BJP, reaching out now to sections other than its Hindi heartland core constituency in its politically ambitious “Congress-mukt Bharat” designs, would also well know that development and job creation cannot remain mere poll promises if it is serious about expanding its presence in the region. As for the pan-India political scenario, much as the BJP lays great store by its idea of ousting the Congress everywhere, the Opposition too would be aiming to keep the BJP out in the states going to elections soon. While the battle of basic ideologies has not changed, the public may just have begun to attach more importance to development over politics. That much is made evident in the two years of Mr Modi’s government.