BJP national president Amit Shah launched North East Democratic Alliance with a realistic goal of ‘Congress Mukt North East’ on Wednesday in Guwahati. It is an alliance of nine regional parties of the region with BJP. Two of these parties namely Sikkim Democratic Front, Nagaland People’s Front are already in power in Sikkim and Nagaland respectively.
The declared goal of this newly formed alliance is to bridge the development gap between the region and the rest of the country and instill awareness that a secure North East will ensure national security.
Apart from the regional parties mentioned above the others allying with BJP in North East Democratic Alliance (Neda) are - Asom Gana Parishad, Ganashakti and Bodoland People’s Front in Assam, Mizo National Front in Mizoram, United Democratic Party and National Democratic Party in Meghalaya, Indegeneous People’s front in Tripura.
Why Neda was needed
• BJP wants to be seen as an agent for development and not pushing its pet agenda Hindu rashtra alone in the region before the Manipur assembly election to be held next year. The state has almost equal number of Christian and Hindu voters. Moreover Nagaland, Mizoram and Meghalaya are Christian majority states which are heading for election in 2018.
• Out of 25 Lok Sabha seats the region has, 16 are represented by candidates belonging to either BJP or it’s allies. Increasing seat share of BJP and its allies means a shade brighter chance of BJP coming back to power in 2019 general election.
• Ensuring more seats in 2019 Lok Sabha election requires more power to BJP’s allies in the region. So the party needs to assist its allies in forming a government in wherever it has less chance of leading an alliance government or winning. Hence the slogan of this alliance is ‘Congress mukt North East’, which means political space for the regional allies wherever possible.
• BJP needs to keep possible dissension at bay in the Assam government. By inducting Himanta Biswa Sarma in the pivot position of Neda, BJP wishes to keep him busy. His dissidence and joining BJP later on was seen as one of the major reason of Congress party’s defeat in Assam.
Is Congress mukt North East a realistic goal?
Out of eight northeastern states, three are led by either BJP or its allies. Among the remaining five, four are led by Congress and one is led by CPM. Congress ruled states Manipur, Meghalaya and Mizoram are at the verge of dissidence. Nabam Tuki, the Congress Chief Minister, who has been recently reinstated by the apex court in Arunachal Pradesh, has yet to prove his numbers in the assembly. Experts say that Congress mukt Bharat might not be an unrealistic goal, given the fact that northeastern states are mostly dependent on the Central government for funds.
The impact of Neda might not be equal on every state, especially in the states of Nagaland and Manipur which are at loggerheads with each other regarding their boundaries. Many Meitei voters in Manipur see Nagaland People’s Front, an ally in Neda, as a party against their interests. NPF has supported greater Nagaland demand hailed by the NSCN. This demand also seeks to include a major chunk of Manipur in Nagaland. It has been the cause of rift in the region.
On the other hand, a section of the state BJP in Nagaland see dissidence in NPF government as an opportunity. They are in favour of inducting dissident NPF leaders rather than allying with it. If such an induction is done, the alliance might get affected.
Though ‘Congress Mukt North East’ is said to be a realistic goal by experts but they also point out some factors which might deter Neda’s march towards it.
• If the results of Punjab and Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections turn out to be negative then it might have similar impact on the alliance itself. Apurba Kumar Baruah an intellectual from the region says that in that case BJP might lose allies from Neda itself.
• BJP’s performance in Assam will be a major factor. If the party cannot meet its promises made in the Assembly Election in Assam neither the BJP nor an alliance led by it will be seen as a catalyst for change in the region. Expulsion of Bangladeshi immigrants is one major promises made by BJP in Assam.
• After BJP stepped into power in North East, two new major issues have surfaced. The first is the petroleum ministry’s decision to privatise 12 oilfields in the state. The second is fund crunch in the Assam government and the decision to raise fund by increasing VAT by 1 percent. For some, if these issues are not solved ‘Congress mukt North East' is a distant goal.