With the NDA managing to win in Nagaland and Tripura and in the process to form a government in Meghalaya with chief minister Conrad Sangma, editorials in prominent English dailies noted on Friday that the BJP’s political narrative has gained more ground in the Northeast.
While newspapers pointed out that the results reflect the failure of other parties that dominated the region for years, they said it is unlikely that the states where the BJP remains the junior partner would be spared of its “predatory tactic”. They noted the promises of infrastructure expansion but also the “undermining of social cohesion”.
In an editorial titled “North-east spread”, the noted that regional parties seem to recognise the “new stirrings and are keen to align with the BJP – they have historically preferred to partner the dominant party at the Centre”. “Since 2014, the BJP has tried to build on the ground work done by the RSS in the region by projecting a narrative of nationalism, and schemes and promises of expanding infrastructure.”
“However, the privileging of majoritarian identity politics, particularly in Assam and Tripura, could disrupt this record of administrative successes. The anti-minority politics and propaganda that appears to have found state sanction in Assam and the attempt to stoke fear among Bengali speakers in Tripura over the rise of Tipra Motha, an outfit that has focused on the rights of “indigenous communities”, are deeply disturbing and raise legitimate fears of the undermining of social cohesion. The Northeast is a crucible of multiple identities and shares a long and sensitive boundary with Bangladesh, Myanmar and China. Both development and social peace are key to building the region as the centrepiece of India’s Act East strategy.”
Meanwhile, in an editorial headlined “Centre stage”, the stated, “One line of analytical thinking would explain the outcome of the elections in terms of the persistent yearning for development for a region heavily dependent on Central assistance. The less discussed aspect, however, concerns the BJP’s selective political rhetoric. The BJP has soft-pedalled its brutal majoritarian agenda and its attendant cultural dimensions – dictating food choices – in a region with a sizeable Christian population that has borne the brunt of right-wing violence in other parts of India.”
The paper noted that it would be interesting to see how the contours of the Northeast’s political map evolve as the BJP, which “believes in aggressive expansion, has been known to grow at the expense of its allies”. “It is unlikely that the states where the BJP remains the junior partner would be spared of its predatory tactic. The compulsions for such branching out are both political and ideological. The response of its opponents – not just the regional heavyweights but also emerging ones like the Tipra Motha in Tripura – could open up the doors for a fierce contest in the days to come.”
However, the observed the BJP’s “true talent” beyond the latest round of elections. It said “the mandate – via the conduit of primary partners in regional parties – is for the central government, Brand Modi sarkar. This is reposing faith, as Meghalaya and Nagaland have also reposed in the Congress past, in a double-engine administration with localised characteristics.”
“In Tripura, Meghalaya and Nagaland, the national party has managed to evolve from 'novelty alternative' – especially in three-decade Left-rule in Tripura – to reliable choice. This marks an important point in the political contract between BJP and the people of these states.
“For the party, it means finding virtue in localising itself, especially for electorates with strong sociocultural roots far removed from perceived 'north Indian' values. This was, for instance, reflected in incumbent Meghalaya chief minister Conrad Sangma not striking a pre-election tie-up between his National People's Party and BJP, its partner in the ruling Meghalaya Democratic Alliance. But BJP, to its credit, adapted to ground conditions, and took up the ‘franchise model’ - shaping itself not according to central party characteristics but to local electoral consumption tastes.”
The said that “Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s image, the availability of resources, realism and diplomacy on issues, a well-organised campaign directed by Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and the lack of strength of other parties, except in Meghalaya, were the factors that propelled the BJP again to the pole position”.
It pointed out the chinks in the BJP’s armour in two of the three states. In Tripura, it said the party’s alliance lost a “number of seats” and has “barely secured a simple majority”. In Meghalaya, the paper said the Trinamool Congress has “made its presence felt” and the Congress, “which was left with no MLAs, though it was the largest party with 21 MLAs after the last election, has shown that it is alive at the ground level”.
“The North-Eastern states have traditionally supported the ruling party at the Centre in elections. It is not ideologies but the potential for realising regional and local interests that influences their electoral preferences. So, it is no surprise that the BJP has done well in the three states where it was the dominant ruling party or was part of the ruling alliance,” it stated.
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