From day one, development of North-Eastern states has been on top of the NDA government’s agenda. The efforts made so far on this front have received huge support in the form of BJP governments in Assam, Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh. Now, Tripura, Mizoram Meghalaya and Sikkim also seem to be gearing up for this change
Jyoti Lal Chowdhury
Having formed governments in Assam, Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh with the clear vision of ensuring fruits of development to all the people, the BJP has started focusing on Tripura, Mizoram, Meghalaya and Sikkim, which are bound for Assembly polls next year.
The party leadership discussed this issue in the recent national executive meeting held in Bhubaneswar, Odisha, where specific references were made to north-eastern states and its people for reposing trust in the policies and schemes of the Central Government. Along with that the results of recently concluded by-elections in 10 Assembly constituencies spread across eight different states have also boosted up morale of party leaders and workers. The five constituencies won by the BJP are Rajouri Garden in Delhi, Dholpur in Rajasthan, Bandhavgarh in Madhya Pradesh, Bhoranj in Himachal Pradesh and Dhemaji in Assam.
Significantly, three seats of Dhemaji, Bhoranj and Bandhavgarh have been retained by the BJP, while the Rajouri Garden and Dholpur seats have been wrested from AAP and Congress respectively. The BJP coming second to TMC in Kanthi, beating CPM and Congress behind in the race is also significant for the party which is desperate to make inroads in West Bengal. AAP drubbing continued in MCD polls of Delhi also where the BJP won all the three Municipal Corporations third time.
After the massive mandate and formation of governments in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand and to sit on the citadel of power in Goa and Manipur, the BJP leaders of northeastern states are optimistic about the prospect of the party in the region. It is important that the party has alliance with regional political parties like Naga People’s Front, Sikkim Democratic Front, People’s Party of Arunachal, Asom Gana Parishad and Bodoland People’s Front. The formation of the alliance is to make northeast Congress-free, which has been ruling the roost for decades.
According to political analysts, the winning spree of BJP will go a long way in preparing a blueprint for electoral success in Tripura, Mizoram and Meghalaya, which go to polls in 2018 and Sikkim in 2019. It will therefore be interesting to see how the long rule of Left Front in Tripura will be dislodged. BJP national general secretary and in-charge of northeastern states, Shri Ram Madhav, has taken up strategy to ensure that the party gears up for the poll battles with all confidence and spreads its tentacle in the entire region. Once the alliance is formed with Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT) and Indigenous Nationalist Party of Twipra (INPT) in Tripura, it will no doubt add sail to the mast of BJP. BJP National Executive has rightly called upon the party workers to work hard to win the confidence of people.
If the spectacular success of BJP in UP and Uttarakhand is ascribed to the brickmanship of Shri Amit Shah, the skill and maneuverability for the formation of government in Manipur goes to Dr Himanta Biswa Sarma who has been the main architect in bringing BJP to power in Assam for the first time in elections of 2016. In order to take the party to new heights in the north-east, North-East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) was formed on May 24, 2016 by the BJP along with regional political parties like Naga People’s Front, Sikkim Democratic Front, People’s Party of Arunachal, Asom Gana Parishad and Bodoland People’s Front. The motive of the political front is to protect the interests of the people of the region as well as to unite all the non-Congress parties in north-east India. Himanta Biswa Sarma, convener of the Front, is also, the main architect behind it.
The strategy adopted is to formulate policy with regard to the political equations and hopes of the people of the states as well as the diverse issues and problems affecting them. The confidence among the party leaders emanating from the experiences of Assam and Manipur, according to political analysts, will go a long way in preparing a blueprint for electoral success. The crucial battle for the party will be Tripura where it has been the left-bastion for long. After the defeat of Congress in the state, Left Front has been in power for the last 24 years. Since the formation of the state in 1963, it has been ruled by Congress for long 18 years, while CPM has been dominant for almost 34 years. Interestingly, the state has witnessed three terms of Presidential rule also in between. Besides, it has also been under the rule of Janata Dal and Congress for Democracy for a short term.
It will, therefore, be a challenge for BJP to dislodge the Left ruled Tripura government of Manik Sarkar in Tripura who has the record of winning elections for four consecutive terms. Can he be out of power in his fifth battle? This is the big question. But, brimming with confidence about his victory in the next battle ahead, Manik Sarkar told mediapersons in a recent interview in Agartala that people of Tripura will never be misled by false promises and tall-talks of BJP. But, despite the brave face being put up by Manik Sarkar, BJP leaders have already started a sort of campaign to mobilise public opinion.
Party stalwarts like BJP national general secretary and in-charge northeastern states Shri Ram Madhav, Chief Minister of Assam Sarbananda Sonowal and other frontline leaders have virtually jumped into the fray. The massive demonstration against the Left Front Government recently saw huge public participation. The thrust of the attack on Manik Sarkar Government was on the rising crime graph, mainly against the atrocities on women.
The organisational strength of BJP has seen a surge in recent past due to the disenchantment of people against the ruling party and BJP’s better performance in recently held Assembly and local body elections.
BJP leaders have girded up their lions to take advantage of the anti-incumbency factor. The leadership has also begun to explore the possibility of forming an alliance with regional parties like IPFT and INPT. Importantly, the Vanvasis are dominant and deciding factor in 18 of the 60 Assembly seats of the state.
The statement of Biplob Deb, Tripura state BJP president, is also significant. He has gone on record on the basis of his political experiences to say that the party would not go for any kind of seat adjustment with any other party and fight the elections on its own strength to end the Left Front rule.
From all accounts, the main contender against BJP to throw out Manik Sarkar Government will be Trinamool Congress as Congress has lost its public base. It will, therefore, be interesting to watch how and on what strategy BJP brings down the curtain on 24 years rule of the Left Front Government.
“My Government has been proactively following the ‘Act East Policy’. I consider the North Eastern Region as the Gateway to South-East Asia. As part of this policy, it is our mission to upgrade the infrastructure in Road, Rail, Telecom, Power and Waterways in the region. We are committed to connect all North Eastern States with the country’s railway network. Since the formation of the NDA Government at the Centre, we have spent more than 10,000 crore rupees for development of railway network in the North East. The Railway Ministry plans to spend more than 5000 crore rupees during the current year for the same. In November, 2014, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh were brought on the rail map of India. Recently, Agartala in Tripura has been connected with a broadgauge railway line. Today is indeed a red letter day in the history of the North-East. Broadgauge Passenger Trains now connect the States of Manipur and Mizoram. Kamakhya in Guwahati has been directly connected with Vaishno Devi in Katra, near Jammu”.