BJP firmly in the ascendancy in North-East : The Tribune India

Join Whatsapp Channel

BJP firmly in the ascendancy in North-East

A high point for the current BJP leadership is the party’s growth and expansion in previous no-go territories. Assam and Tripura were always exceptions in the North-East in that they were closer to the ‘mainstream’ because of their demography and language which made for a degree of assimilation with the rest of India. The Congress lost the North-East and that’s no mean feat for the BJP.

BJP firmly in the ascendancy in North-East

Twist: The BJP made peace with National People’s Party and persuaded Meghalaya CM Conrad Sangma (right) to accommodate its MLAs in the new dispensation. ANI



Radhika Ramaseshan

Senior Journalist

Picture the country’s North-East and the images the region conjures are two-toned. The mighty Brahmaputra, the flora, the hills and the religious, ethnic and linguistic profusion make for attractive visuals and a narrative of outward harmony in diversity. But there’s a disconcerting underbelly of violence and conflict, exacerbated by New Delhi’s long-established overbearing ways towards the states and their own internal problems caused by immigration from Bangladesh, intra-border disputes, ethnic and religious clashes, protracted insurgencies and the consequently heavy military presence which led to protests like the one in July 2004 when Manipur’s women hit the streets against the imposition of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act or AFSPA.

The Centre’s use of the heavy-handed AFSPA reflects its confused attitude towards handling administrative issues in the North-East. The Act was enacted in 1958 and practically covered the entire region, especially Nagaland, which was carved out of undivided Assam. In March 2022, the Centre decided to reduce the number of areas under AFSPA in Nagaland, Manipur and Assam, but in October, it was extended to areas of Assam adjacent to the Nagaland border because the ‘peace’ talks with the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah) or NSCN (IM) and the Naga National Political Groups hit a dead end. The talks marked a step forward in the Centre’s endeavour to end insurgency in Nagaland, after an agreement was signed with the Narendra Modi government in 2015 to create an enabling framework. The agreement was one among others between Nagaland and the Centre such as the Shillong Accord of 1975 with the Naga National Council led by Angami Phizo (who declared it an independent state in 1947) and the 1997 ceasefire concord with the NSCN (IM).

Indeed, India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru astutely sized up the enormity of the challenges in the North-East and the sense of alienation from the ‘mainstream’ experienced by its people which led to the application of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution to united Assam’s tribal areas to facilitate people to live life their own way while making it clear that Delhi would not brook secessionism, declaration of independence from India and violence.

Decades of participation in electoral politics went some way in mitigating the sense of separation and disaffection among people, although the electoral process was often marked by serious conflicts challenging Delhi’s writ to assert suzerainty, as also a proliferation of regional forces and their propensity to strike a compromise with the ‘mainline’ parties such as the Congress and now the BJP, regardless of their policy outlook towards the region.

A high point for the current BJP leadership is the party’s growth and expansion in previous no-go territories. Assam and Tripura were always exceptions in the North-East in that they were closer to the ‘mainstream’ because of their demography and language which made for a degree of assimilation with the rest of India. Even in these circumstances, Assam and Tripura clearly demonstrated that they would not be dictated to by the Centre. Tripura for long was ruled by the Left Front that was perennially engaged in violent feuds with the Congress.

The significance of the inaugural batch of elections in 2023 lies in pushing ahead — at least notionally — and adding a new element to the progression of integration of the North-East with ‘mainstream’ India. Like the Congress, the BJP sought to mark its footprint largely through electoral and political mechanisms, while pivoting itself in its dealings with the regional forces.

Remarkably, the BJP carried out its agenda in two Christian-dominated states, Meghalaya and Nagaland, and in tribal-heavy Tripura. It returned to power in Tripura with a reduced majority, retained its account in Nagaland with its ally, the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP), and made peace with an estranged partner, the National People’s Party, and persuaded Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma to accommodate its MLAs in the new dispensation.

That the leaders of Nagaland and Meghalaya willingly consorted with a ‘hardline Hindutva’-rooted BJP testified to the party’s resilience and pragmatism. The BJP’s local leaders made it clear that they had no issue with beef eaters, notwithstanding the enactment of anti-cattle slaughter laws and their rigorous enforcement in some other states. The attacks on churches and the ceaseless campaign against Christian missionaries hardly impacted the state parties and the voters who apparently made a distinction between realpolitik aimed at governance and ideologies. The bitterness between Assam and Meghalaya over boundary disputes in November 2022, which led to Assam police’s alleged excesses on Meghalaya’s civilians, melted in a stroke.

In Tripura, where the BJP’s ally, the Indigenous Tribal People’s Front, failed to draw tribal votes, the party promptly reached out to the more successful Pradyot Debbarma, a former Congressman, who launched the Tipra Motha and bagged the tribal votes with the promise of a separate state. The Centre’s promise of appointing an interlocutor to address the issues of tribal welfare was enough to soften Debbarma who indicated he was ready to do business with the BJP and put his demand for Tipraland on the back burner for now.

At the heart of the BJP’s success in the North-East — which may or may not endure — are other factors, notable among them being the formation of the North-East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) and the body’s command being entrusted with Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma. The NEDA is professedly a ‘neutral’ platform of non-Congress parties wanting to go along with the BJP and Centre. While the state parties are dependent on Delhi for funding and infrastructural growth, the NEDA symbolises the BJP’s overwhelming desire to make its ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’ slogan a reality. The Congress lost the North-East and that’s no mean achievement for the BJP.


Top News

Want fair probe, justice in Swati Maliwal assault case as incident has two versions: Arvind Kejriwal

Want fair probe, justice in Swati Maliwal assault case as incident has two versions: Arvind Kejriwal

In an interview to PTI, the chief minister says the matter i...

Rajasthan’s Barmer records 48 degrees; temperatures set to rise further, says IMD

Rajasthan’s Barmer records 48 degrees; temperatures set to rise further, says IMD

Water levels in the Delhi stretch of the Yamuna river drop a...

Calcutta High Court order on OBC quota to Muslims ‘tight slap’ to opposition: Modi

Calcutta High Court order on OBC quota to Muslims ‘tight slap’ to opposition: Modi

The Calcutta High Court, in its verdict on Wednesday, noted ...

Bomb threat email received by North Block, security officers conduct searches

North Block receives bomb threat email, turns out to be hoax

The threat is received through an email around 3.30 pm by a ...

Pune juvenile court cancels bail of teenager involved in car crash, sends him to observation home

Pune juvenile court cancels bail of teenager involved in car crash, sends him to observation home

The board had on Sunday granted bail to him hours after the ...


Cities

View All