The northeastern states might have been a hard nut to crack for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the past but not anymore. The recently concluded assembly elections brought the saffron party to power in Tripura and Nagaland while the party in almost certain to be part of ruling dispensation in Meghalaya. Now, the whole of the region is under the rule of BJP and its allies except for Mizoram.
The rise of BJP in northeastern region is phenomenal. It all started last year as BJP wrested power from Congress bastions — Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh. Sikkim is already governed by Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF), a member of National Democratic Alliance (NDA) led by BJP.
The BJP didn't win even a single seat in Tripura and Meghalaya in the last assembly elections, while it won one assembly seat in Nagaland. But the party won 35 seats in Tripura in the recently concluded assembly elections and two in Meghalaya. It won 12 seats out of 20 it contested in Nagaland.
The party may have won only two seats in Meghalaya but it has succeeded in disrupting its rival Congress from forming the government. It has made its presence felt in the state by joining hands with National People's Party (which won 19 seats), United Democratic Party (UDP), People's Democratic Front (PDF), Hill State People's Democratic Party (HSPDP) and an independent candidate. NPP, leader Conrad Sangma is expected to be sworn in as the chief minister of the state on Tuesday, March 6.
In Nagaland, BJP is the kingmaker with regional parties Naga People's Front (NPF) led by incumbent chief minister T R Zeliang and Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) led by former CM and MP Neiphiu Rio are not in the position to compromise. BJP is now all set to form the government in the state with its pre-poll ally NDPP along with an independent candidate and the lone JD(U) MLA. In the meantime, Congress was reduced from eight (seats won in the last election) to nill.
In case of Tripura, the rise of BJP is simply remarkable. The party drew a blank in the 2013 assembly elections but won 35 seats this time, while its ally Indigenous People's Front of Tripura (IPFP) won eight. The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) under Manik Sarkar was reduced from 49 seats it won in 2013 to just 16 in 2018 assembly election, while the Congress was reduced from 11 (seats won in 2013) to zero.
Now, BJP-led NDA assumed power in seven out of eight northeastern states. Mizoram is the only state in the northeast with a non-NDA government. Congress won a majority and formed the government in 2008.
Interestingly, almost all the northeastern states where BJP has come to power in the last two years share one common feature – one party or alliance was in power for a decade or more before BJP and its allies took over.
While the anti-incumbency factor was clearly evident across all the assembly elections in the northeast region, it is to be seen how BJP will customize its narrative to fit the political and social realities of the region.