New Delhi: Issues could be different in the three States. For people, the majority of them development-starved tribals, issues like jobs do matter. In Nagaland, there is a pressing issue of insurgency and pending peace talks.
But in a general sense, the elections in Nagaland, Meghalaya and Tripura had one common thread – they have a national significance. Polls in all these States importantly revolved around Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Moditva phenomenon.
Of course, the winner takes it all. The mandate says so. PM Modi is the man of the match, and truly the faceless, innocuous tribal voter from the remote hamlet with coffee-coloured mud on his/her feet is the man/woman of the series. They spoke out eloquently and, in many places, proved the prophets of doom wrong to endorse PM Modi and his Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas.
Even in Meghalaya, where the BJP could not increase its tally, important factors in the debate were development and the PM’s image as a performer. One should not forget during the campaign, NPP leader Conrad Sangma also sang the praise of PM Modi and his policies.
It is not without good reason that the Prime Minister received a grand welcome from his party karyakartas and top leaders as he arrived for the victory celebrations at the party headquarters.
“Thank you, Tripura! This is a vote for progress and stability. @BJP4Tripura will continue to boost the State’s growth trajectory,” PM Modi tweeted.
He also said that his party and Government would continue to focus on empowering the people of Meghalaya.
“I am also thankful to our party workers for the effort they put in”.
“I thank the people of Nagaland for blessing the @NDPPofficial @BJP4Nagaland alliance with yet another mandate to serve the State. The double engine government will keep working for the State’s progress,” he wrote in another missive.
The point was to drive home the message that the BJP has been able to make a significant impact among tribal voters, mostly Christians. Of course, the BJP leaders are “upbeat about these election results” as they believe this will help them in future elections in 2024 and States like Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh later this year, says Agartala-based Kutu Roy.
The large turnout in Tripura – around 80 per cent – was because people had high expectations from PM Modi. This is crucial because the left parties and their communist ideology still controls the mindset of the people. And they have a formidable ecosystem that – as expected – screamed that they would win. Now, they could easily try their old game and blame the EVM.
The slogan ‘Modi for Meghalaya’ was very opt and could associate with people’s aspirations very well. In Nagaland, with regard to peace talks again, if Nagas can dream of a solution today, it is also because Modi is the Prime Minister.
The outcome of these polls – the first of the poll-frenzy year 2023 – should also be understood from the impending battle of 2024. A few finer points need to be understood and analysed in their proper perspective.
In 2018 the BJP victories in these States were actually a trendsetter. Do not forget Karnataka gave a fractured mandate in 2018; and MP, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh – actually BJP had lost and Congress came to power in December 2018. But in the Lok Sabha polls of 2019, India reposed faith in Narendra Modi yet again.
Shillong-based analyst Manoj Sakhrani told this journalist, “The common people and poor people prefer a strong and decisive leader. That’s Modi for you and hence opposition unity fails. The north east could gauge the overall national mood and would vote. They are very good at this. They did so in 2018 quite decisively and the rest of India toed the line in 2019”.
Let us examine some statistics. In 2019, the BJP seats jumped from 282 to 303. The so-called Opposition unity could not help Modi detractors. In 2014, the Index of Opposition Unity was around 65 per cent, and Modi ousted the UPA. In 2019, the Index of Opposition Unity was around 85 per cent, but it also resulted in a reverse swing and ‘polarisation’ in favour of Namo. Thus the seat tally increased, and the vote share also jumped from 31 per cent to 37 per cent.
The Meghalaya election has been a very crucial one this year, especially for the BJP. The party contested 60 candidates for the first time, but its vote share remained around 9.3 per cent, almost similar to 9.6 in 2018.
For Congress, it was a modest and partial victory in Tripura, where it could pick up three seats. In 2018, the Congress tally was zero. Of course, one elected Congress MLA is Sudip Roy Barman, who had won on a BJP ticket five years back and served as a Minister for some time.
In Meghalaya, where the Congress had won 21 to emerge as the single largest party under Mukul Sangma’s leadership, its vote share dropped. So did the seats from 21 (in 2018) to 5. In Nagaland, too, it has failed to open an account, as in 2018.
Political analyst Kutu Roy in Agartala said, “The Left and Congress coming together gave Congress an edge as the Marxists’ votes got transferred. But the communists did not benefit from the alliance
essentially because Congress votes are always non-transferable”.
The Congress could win three as against zero in 2018 and the CPI-M tally dropped to 11 from 16. The saffron party’s vote share came down from 43.59 per cent to 39 per cent, but the number of seats fell only by four seats to 32.
For the CPI-M, the vote share nosedived from 42.22per cent to around 24.62 per cent. This makes it clear that the newly floated tribal-based party Tipra Motha gained at the expense of the Left and BJP’s pre-poll ally, Indigenous Peoples Front of Tripura (IPFT).
This party had won nine last time, but it came down to a meagre one this time. Tipra Motha led by Pradyot Bikram Manikya making its first attempt could win thirteen, and if it stays away from BJP, the principal Opposition space will come to it. Motha’s vote share was 22 per cent.
On the whole of course, the BJP will be more than delighted with the mandate. The Lotus party’s victory that started in Uttar Pradesh and Manipur in March 2022 continues. Last year Modi-Shah duo delivered six State assembly victories except in Himachal Pradesh. To this school of thought, the major electoral plank has been its stance to promote ‘pro-incumbency’, and despite limitations and strong opposition, they have been able to deliver that.
Of course, BJP will be unhappy with its performance in Meghalaya. Still, if BJP thinks it can emerge as a player in this Christian-dominated State, it is also because of the Prime Minister.
North East sends 25 members to Lok Sabha, and now the focus will shift to polls in Mizoram later this year and also for the crucial battle of 2024.