Ahead of the results in Tripura and Meghalaya, the possibility of a hung assembly in both the states led to vigorous meetings in both the ruling and opposition camps. While the national leadership of the BJP and senior leaders in the Northeast were mulling over the next steps.
The North Eastern belt of the country is one such place we plan to visit. The Northeast region of India is one of the most culturally rich and diverse regions in the country. Northeast is very easy to locate because of the eight states Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Sikkim located close to each other. In the Northeast, it is said that dawn comes earlier than in other states. But these days the north eastern state of India is feeling the dawn of change in recent years. Ahead of the results in Tripura and Meghalaya, the possibility of a hung assembly in both the states led to vigorous meetings in both the ruling and opposition camps. While the national leadership of the BJP and senior leaders in the Northeast were mulling over the next steps. If the party falls short of a majority in Tripura, though the party was headed for a simple majority, they were considering various options in Meghalaya as well.
As the election results of India’s three northeastern states began pouring in on Thursday, it became clear that the BJP would retain the rightful Tripura Raj by just a few seats. In Nagaland, the BJP is in the role of a junior partner in the ruling coalition led by the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) ahead of the elections. The trends showed that the NDPP was winning the state and the BJP was making personal gains. In Meghalaya, the BJP parted ways with its old ally, the ruling National People’s Party (NPP). Both have performed well individually and are likely to come together to form the next government. Actually this time the saffron party seems to be performing better.
This is how darkness fell and the lotus blossomed in the northeastern states
The BJP’s performance is not limited to these three states. In recent years, the party has done remarkably well in the region, from Assam to Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur. In 2016, the BJP won the Assam elections, ending 15 years of Congress rule in the state. In the same year, the BJP formed the government in Arunachal Pradesh as well, when Pema Khandu, who was originally from the Congress and had joined the BJP, became the chief minister. In 2017, the BJP won Manipur and former Congressman N Biren Singh became the chief minister. The BJP won the 2018 Tripura Legislative Assembly elections, ending 25 years of Left rule in the state. In the same year, the saffron party, as a junior partner, formed coalition governments in Meghalaya and Nagaland. In the 2019 Arunachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly election, the BJP won 41 out of 60 seats and retained the state. In 2021, the saffron party retained Assam. In 2022 BJP again won Manipur. There are regional parties governing the states in Sikkim and Mizoram.
Reasons for the rise of saffron in the Northeast
Some people may have difficulty interpreting this rune. Assam and Tripura are Hindu-majority states, but with some normalization in the rest of the Northeast, tribal and Christian majorities. Many of them are also beef eaters, against whom the BJP has been running a campaign. Many of these tribals and Christians speak English, while the BJP is often questioned for promoting Hindi and Hindutva and imposing it in the language of its opponents. In such a situation, what is the reason behind the waving of saffron in the Northeast of India?
change is visible on the ground
If you look at the entire timeline, the BJP’s first victory in the Northeast (Assam, 2016) came two years after the Modi government first came to power at the Centre. The BJP government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee created a dedicated central ministry for the development of India’s Northeast. That is, the goodwill for the development of the Northeast was already there. Now, new projects were planned, old projects were expedited, more funds were released. As a result, change was visible on the ground. The year 2015 turned out to be the most important of all. Angry with Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi of Congress, young and influential Congress leader Himanta Biswa Sarma joined BJP. Sarma, who is now the Chief Minister of Assam. Under his leadership, a North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) was formed so that the BJP could work with regional powers to make inroads in the region and bring disaffected people to the Congress and other parties.
NEDA played an important role
The specific socio-political culture and aspirations of the region necessitated something like the NEDA as the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) at the Center and in several states away from the Northeast would have looked alien in the region. The message was: Delhi is not far away. Some more Sarma-like catches have been caught by the Congress. The exit of N Biren Singh and Pema Khandu are prime examples of the downfall of the Congress. For example, the oldest party which ruled Nagaland till 2003 did not have any member in the assembly before the 2023 elections. But even before Sarma, BJP’s ideological father Ram Madhav of the RSS worked in the Northeast for many years.
RSS made a different strategy
In fact, the RSS has been working in this field even before India’s independence from the British. This made his work relevant in the field. The RSS sent out a message that if tribals feel alienated from the modernist approach of previous governments, there is a force here ready to embrace them. RSS understood that this region is not Punjab and Uttar Pradesh in terms of agriculture. So, given the presence of tribal and Christian populations in the northeastern states, except perhaps in Assam and Tripura where Hindus support such moves, enforcing vegetarianism or campaigning against beef will not reduce it. A few days ago Meghalaya BJP chief Ernest Mowry said that he eats beef, eating beef is a part of the state’s lifestyle and no one can stop it. This statement did not surprise many and rightly so.