The Election Commission of India officially declared the dates for the State elections in three states namely Tripura, Meghalaya, and Nagaland in the North-East region of our country on 18th January as Model Code of Conducted was implemented following the announcement. All the three states have incumbent governments with Manik Sarkar of CPI(M) from Tripura being the longest one after being elected to office in 1998 for the first time and winning five state election in the last 20 years. Incumbency is a crucial factor that can affect the outcome of the results as the all three states are headed for election this month.
The Rise of BJP in North-East
Since the landslide victory in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections under the guidance and leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP has made inroads on the map of India with victories after victories in state and civic body elections as they look to fulfill their vision of ‘Congress Mukht Bharat’. The ‘Modi Wave’ has hit the North-East region, a region where the party was non-existent before the 2014 General Elections, as the party has gained massive vote share in the region in last three assembly elections that took place in the states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, and Manipur. The RSS backed Bhartiya Janta Party has been able to establish their government successfully in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, and Manipur as the vote share of the party has been on the up ever since Narendra Modi led BJP won the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. With Himanta Biswa Sarma, BJP’s North-east strategist and Assam’s Finance Minister, spearheading the campaign in the three states for the upcoming elections, he would be hoping to emulate the success of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh, and strengthen BJP’s stronghold in the region. Certainly, the upcoming elections results are highly anticipated as the BJP’s performance in Tripura, Meghalaya, and Nagaland can surely set the tone for the upcoming General Elections in 2019.
Tripura-Bastion of Left?
Tripura Elections 2018 will see the political ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ lock horn against each other for the first in Indian history. The incumbent Left Front government led by Manik Sarkar has been in the power since 1998, with Congress time and again failed to put up a fierce challenge against Manik Sarkar’s government. In recent years, the RSS backed BJP has established a stronghold in the region, as the leaders and members of Congress party in the state have grown disgruntled with party’s inability to protect the party workers and put a brave fight against ‘country’s poorest Chief Minister’. The members have switched legion and joined BJP as they feel that party’s image throughout the country is growing and moreover the party is willing to counter Left Front government and is proving to be a tougher opposition than Congress has been in recent elections. Manik Sarkar has been credited with bringing peace to the state, as he laid out specific policies and measures to curb insurgency within the state and thus, became the first state in the country to lift Armed Forces Special Provision Act. As is the case with other states that are headed into the elections in the region, incumbency is one of the major issue causing concerns for the CPI(M) led Left Front. There are issues that have raised eyebrows in the media, as the Tripura Government has failed to provide jobs to the youth of state even though the government has laid down policies for the betterment of public healthcare and higher education facilities within the state. While the past generations are still loyal to the Left as they feel that without Manik Sarkar’s government, the state would still be facing insurgencies, while the youth of the state feels that Tripura has lagged behind other regional states in terms of development and employment opportunities. The BJP-alliance with Indigenous Peoples Front of Tripura(IPFT) will surely look to make giant strides in reducing down the vote-base of the Left with their slogan for the election ‘Chalo Paltai’ (Let’s overthrow) and hoping to form a different government in the state for the first time since CPI(M) led Left Front overthrew the Congress-led government in 1993.
Which way will the BJP go in Nagaland?
As Nagaland is gearing up for the upcoming legislative assembly elections along with Tripura and Meghalaya, the ruling Democratic Alliance Of Nagaland led by Naga People’s Front with support from BJP has been in the power for last three mandates. However, in recent times the Naga People’s Front has seen internal party conflicts taking place within the party, as Neiphiu Rio, the former Chief Minister of the state has left the party after disagreements with the present CM TR Zeliang, who reinstated veteran leader Shurhozelie Lieziestsu into the party after Zeliang expelled the latter in July 2017. According to reports, Neiphiu Rio, on the other hand, has joined the National Democratic Progressive Party led by Chingwang Konyak, the former Lok Sabha member, and ex-IAS officer Alemtemsi Jamir as NPF looks to break their tie with BJP. Thus, creating an unstable political battlefield for the upcoming elections as NDPP looks to topple the incumbent NPF government, while BJP holds their cards close to their chest, as they look to forge a formidable post-poll alliance and repeat the success of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, and Manipur by establishing their government in the state. The Congress embarks on a journey to gain seats as they look to establish some gains in the state before next years Lok Sabha elections, while also hoping to play a crucial role in the formation of the next government in Nagaland.
Can BJP break the 15 years jinx?
In Meghalaya, the situation is pretty similar to the one in Nagaland as BJP looks to fight 15 years’ incumbency, as present CM Mukul Sangma, looks to become the Chief Minister of the state for the third consecutive time. In recent months, there have been several legislators of the Sangma government who have switched sides as some went to join BJP while few walked over to National People’s Party, the latter being touted as one of the major contenders in the upcoming elections. While the BJP has quashed all rumors surrounding any pre-poll alliance with NPP, as they consider NPP a strong contender, they aren’t willing to fight the elections as the weaker partner in the alliance. Such a move can have a negative impact on the vote share of both the parties. The BJP’s strategy is clear regarding post-poll alliance as they will be open to joining alliances once people’s verdict is out on 3rd March, as they look to bring stability in the government by establishing a government similar to the one established in Manipur last year. While Congress remains confident in the state under the leadership of Mukul Sangma, there is a chance of hung assembly as even the independent candidates can play a crucial role in government formation within Meghalaya.
Practice before 2019?
With 2019 General Elections in mind, the ‘Battle of North-east’ can prove to be essential for both Congress and BJP as the results in the region can help boost the confidence of both the parties before next year’s Lok Sabha elections. All the three states facing incumbency, this is surely BJP’s finest chance to establish their government in these states, as any victory in Nagaland, Tripura, and Meghalaya can complete the overhaul in the region, as BJP is looking consolidate their stronghold in the region. The Congress and the Left Front, on the other hand, are trying to keep hold of their seats in these states as these are the few remaining non-BJP states, where BJP hasn’t established government ever since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took over the reigns of the party and drove BJP to landslide victories in elections. The rise of BJP in the region has definitely given a different meaning to elections in the region as for the first time the region is getting the much-needed attention and people are following the elections of the state with the hope of change in the North-east region.
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