North East Heading Towards Bitter Political Battle

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The way the political scenario is changing in the region is indicative of a virulent political battle on communal lines. NRC is emerging as the most important political issue that can affect the fortunes of all political parties. The sharp polarisation may trigger violence in the region, particularly during the elections. The region is already affected by insurgency and related issues. A report for Different Truths.

Following the main election manifesto 2014, the BJP had come out with a supplementary promise about the North East, which said that the party “will take initiatives for the permanent solution of the long pending issues of the Bodos and other tribals of Assam, the people of Sikkim … and other neglected regions”. The promise proved to be hollow. The disenchanted people are, therefore, being experimented with the spectre of NRC for Assam. The communal venom is being re-injected. However, the BJP chief’s claim of ‘sweeping victory in the North East’ is too difficult for him to realize.

The way the political scenario is changing in the region is indicative of a virulent political battle on communal lines. NRC is emerging as the most important political issue that can affect the fortunes of all political parties. The sharp polarisation may trigger violence in the region, particularly during the elections. The region is already affected by insurgency and related issues. Lack of development and employment opportunities is creating more and more antagonists for the ruling BJP combine at the centre. The most likely fallout of all this is reduction in the number of seats held by the BJP presently. Its partners in the NDA are also not in a position to add more seats.

‘Bangladeshi Muslim infiltration’ has always been an important issue in the elections in the North Eastern states. In 2014 it was the biggest issue in Assam, which enabled the BJP to garner half of the seats of the states, but getting only 36.86 per cent of votes. INC and AIUDF had got three seats each and one seat was bagged by an independent candidate. Due to the spectre of NRC this time, a certain percentage of votes polled by the independents are most likely to be shifted to either INC or the BJP. INC had bagged about 30 per cent of votes, while AIUDF (the minority front) had got 15 per cent. In the eventuality of sharp polarisation, things are expected to favour INC as a formidable force against the BJP. As of now, BJP can safely hope for only four seats in Assam out of 14 seats in the states.

The prospects for BJP appear to be bleak in almost all the states in the North East barring Arunachal Pradesh. Out of the two seats of the state, the BJP and the INC have one each. There is no denying the fact that the BJP with 46.62 per cent of votes share seems to be stronger than the INC, which polled 41.62 per cent of votes in the last general election. However, a closer look at the margins of victory suggests a neck and neck fight.

As for the two seats of Manipur, they are presently held by the INC, with the largest share of about 42 per cent votes. The BJP is in the fourth position having only about 12 per cent votes. NPF came second with 20 per cent. The BJP and the NPF are allies now and therefore they are hoping to snatch one of the seats from the INC, because they are now running the state government.

In Meghalaya, one seat is held by INC and the other by NPEP. Both seats were won with huge margins. The INC had about 39 per cent of votes while the BJP got only 9.16 per cent. The NPEP secured about 23 per cent, with independents claiming 17.24 per cent. So, the BJP can hope for only one seat for NDA with its alliance.

The lone seat in Mizoram was won by INC by a wafer thin margin of only about six thousand votes. One independent candidate supported by MNF and the ecclesiastical authorities was runner up. The BJP has no political base in the state.

The one seat of Nagaland was won by the NPF by too large a margin to be upset by any political party. It has almost 69 per cent of vote share. The BJP is in alliance with NPF and presently part of ruling combine in the state. The one seat of Sikkim is with SDF, an alliance partner of the BJP. Therefore, the NDA can hope to retain this seat.

The BJP is hopeful in Tripura on the basis of recent election victory in the assembly election. This miracle happened because of its regional ally INPP. However, the INPP has recently announced that they will fight the Lok Sabha elections on their own. It has marred the prospect of the BJP.

In brief, the BJP can hope for only 5 seats and its allies can add another six seats in the North East. NDA’s share could thus be about 11 seats out of 25 in the region. Each seat will have close contests. There is no indication of ‘sweeping victory’ for any political party either at the constituency level, or the North East as a whole.

Gyan Pathak

©IPA Service

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