In the last few weeks, North Eastern states have been slightly more fortunate to grab bigger space in national dailies. BJP’s PM candidate Narendra Modi is frequently flying to these states as a part of pre-poll campaign. The region still remains a Congress bastion as the party is dominant in five out of the eight states — Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, and Mizoram. It is undoubtedly a daunting task for Modi to sway the voters who have hardly sought any alternative for years.
How is Modi going about his mission? He seems to have narrowed down his approach to woo every state individually. That’s fair enough. What is perhaps not fair is his attempt to create polarization based on religion. While in Assam, he tried to touch upon some sensitive issues such as infiltration. Giving a clear religious tone to his ideas, he suggested that all states must accept ‘Hindu refugees’ from Bangladesh and the burden should not be only on Assam. He harped on the apprehension of indigenous people that Bangladeshi Muslims would become the majority. That is perhaps not the wise way of winning voters’ confidence.
The only theme that emerged from his speech is a blatant effort to hit out at Congress. He accused PM Manmohan Singh of not reaching out to Assam as frequently as he does. He also held chief minister responsible for not doing enough for the state when it was jeopardized by floods in 2012. According to him, Assam government has been abusing people in detention camps. He also made a promise to close down detention camps in Assam and fight against human rights violations. Proclaiming it as a Congress’ design to prevent its detractors from voting, he urged the poll panel to allow 1.43 lakh ‘doubtful’ or ‘disputed’ voters to cast their votes
It was his speech at the Arunachal Pradesh rally that should be read cautiously and with lot of introspection. There’s a fear that he might be going overboard with his promises. Modi has certainly projected himself as a stronger and superior alternative to Congress leadership when it comes to Gujarat, but his recent comments on national issues could be tad unsettling. Apart from praising the state’s tourism potential with a focus on ‘Buddhist tourism’, he assured the natives that “no power in the world can snatch away the state from India”.
A common stream of thought is evident in Modi’s public speeches – BJP’s governance has successfully dealt with all major issues across the country and if voted to power, NDA will prove itself to be a pro-development government. In a subtle way, he took a dig at the UPA government for being insensitive to the problems in every parts of the country. That’s how one can inflict or heighten the sense of marginalization in the people’s mind.
After a long hiatus, can BJP become Congress’ alternative in North East with Modi leading the campaign? That’s the moot question. But the possibility looks bleak. What precedence is he setting by saying, “Congress will not be seen in any corner of the country”? Instead of hinting at political cleansing, it would be wise for him and his party to come up with viable solutions to the problems of North East and compete on the grounds of performance.