New Delhi : Few can dispute the assertion made by Late Union Minister and a well-known BJP poll strategist Arun Jaitley that the regional parties are “tried, tested and failed forces”. This was amply clear in two subsequent Lok Sabha polls in 2014 and 2019. Even in assembly polls in critical states such as Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat, BJP stole the limelight as a nationalist force sidelining parties such as Samajwadi Party, BSP and Aam Aadmi Party.
Other regional players, such as Trinamool Congress and TRS, have their limitations.
Now in Meghalaya, BJP leader L. Michael Kharsyntiew says, “Meghalaya voters should understand the point of voting for NPP or any other regional party when a party is set up in Meghalaya is trying to fight elections in Tripura, Manipur and Nagaland…or Karnataka. Where from are they getting the money?”
His view is that the money or Budget meant for Meghalaya people are getting siphoned off and diverted elsewhere “just for the sake of political ambitions a political party”.
Even the Congress party says that the regional parties have failed miserably in Meghalaya.
“We had NPP led by Conrad Sangma and three regional parties including UDP in power…And there was a failure because Conrad Sangma government was not able to deliver,” says a Congress ticket aspirant from East Shillong Manuel Badwar.
Given these situations, BJP spokesman and a former IPS officer, M Kharkrang, told ‘Organiser’ — “I have come to the conclusion that among all states ruled by BJP, they have shown immense development. That was something underlined by the Prime Minister’s visit on Dec 18”.
Thus he says the regional parties have no future and Meghalaya deserves a nationalist party such as the BJP. He argues that people’s support truly blesses it, so the saffron party has come a long way in Meghalaya and will do well in the February 2023 polls.
People have realised BJP’s potential in bringing developmental revolution, he says.
His party colleague Michael says –“Under NPP Chief Minister Conrad Sangma corruption flourished. But more than the political parties…people have to understand how things have moved. People should realise that what is being provided from Delhi for Meghalaya is indirectly going out to other states. It is a joke that a party is in power for four years and now they are constructing a party office by spending more than Rs 15 crore”.Thus, the BJP is determined to fight the regional parties.
The cycle of democracy has again shut the floodgates of opportunities for regional forces. The opportunistic games to play up their anti-BJP and anti-Congress politics on their sleeves will no longer work, depending on what suits them.
Of course, most regional parties, particularly in the northeast, feel Congress cannot fight the robust electoral juggernaut of the BJP.
An important point is the ‘Modi Magic’. It is helping the saffron outfit to sail through all along.
The developmental mission of BJP and PM “s inclusive growth trajectory gel well with local candidates and the local conditions in Nagaland and Meghalaya.
In other words, the people of the northeast may not allow corruption and non-performance in the name of regional aspirations to shine in the heat and dust of the electoral battle.
On the other hand, regional forces must unite in a unity of purpose.
In Nagaland, two regional parties in the state, NDPP and Naga People’s Front (NPF), are no longer keen on once initiated move of the merger.
In Meghalaya, political observers say the regional party UDP is poised to do well this time. “UDP won seven seats in 2018…and they could have won at least 15 seats easily in next year’s polls. But there is something called crab syndrome, and the infighting will prevent UDP from doing well,” says local analyst Samuel Manoj.
In March 2022 assembly polls, BJP did well in Manipur, and all its rivals, the Congress and regional parties NPF and NPP, could not achieve as they had hoped.
The developments forced Chief Ministers Neiphiu Rio and Conrad Sangma to work to ensure their survival in Nagaland and Meghalaya, respectively.
The big brother approach of the Congress was dangerous for regional parties, and now the BJP’s Mission Development is eroding their space.
Regional forces thus no longer make much political significance in several states.
In Andhra Pradesh, the YSR Congress party is a potent force now but faces BJP. In Telangana, the TRS is a genuine a competitor to both Congress and the BJP.
The ‘Telangana pride’ and newfound statehood in 2014 had rewarded the TRS earlier. TRS supremo KCR could prove the prophets of doom wrong and win as many as 88 seats in a 119-member assembly. The outfit’s vote share saw a quantum leap from 34.3 per cent to 46.9 per cent. But unlike in 2024, the BJP will give TRS an intense fight.
KCR has changed his party’s name to Bharatiya Rashtra Samithi, but how much will such a gimmick work?
The same anti-Congress sentiment is on works in parts of Meghalaya. Former Congress chief minister Mukul Sangma, a popular mass-level leader in Tura hills, decided to quit the grand old party and joined Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress last year. Sources near him say he got the ‘on-ground feedback’ that the Congress would be decimated in next year’s assembly polls due February 2023.
In the Tura region of the Garo tribe, incumbent Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma runs NPP. His sister Agatha is a Lok Sabha member from the area. In other words, the Tura region is all set for a fight between two Garo’ sons of the soil’ and regional titans Mukul Sangma and Conrad.
Things do not end with these alone. Five Congress legislators – all from the Khasi tribe from the mainland Shillong region -have now deserted the grand old party. Two of them have joined the NPP already.