Electoral mandates in the three North East states of Tripura, Meghalaya and Nagaland also come with big challenges for the incoming governments.
The decisive mandate in Tripura brought an end to 25-year rule of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Front and paved the way for installation of the BJP-Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT) coalition government.
However, a new political reality has dawned: While BJP-IPFT coalition will be running the state government, the Left Front continues to control the Tripura Tribal Areas Development Council (TTADC), a majority of the village councils in TTADC, the three-tier panchyat bodies and civic bodies. The TTADC enjoys legislative and executive autonomy under the provisions of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.
The new government will face the challenge of balancing the development work initiated for the state and delivering the fruits through these Left-controlled elected bodies.
Any conflict in sharing power and governance between state government and these elected bodies may have an adverse impact on the development work and shape new perception among the electorate.
The Left Front won all 28 seats of TTADC in elections to the tribal autonomous council held on 3 May, 2015. In 2016, the Left Front swept the TTADC village council polls, winning 520 of the 587 village councils. The Left also won all the 19 urban Local bodies: Agartala Municipal Corporation, 13 municipal bodies and five nagar panchyats.
The BJP, with four seats more than the magic number for 60-member House, will not be dependent on eight legislators of IPFT for survival of the government. As a result, the IPFT will not be in a position to push its primary demand for creation of a “Separate Twipraland” by carving out TTADC areas and may be forced to take to the streets on the statehood demand to retain its support base.
On the other hand, for the BJP, next target will be to win the two Lok Sabha seats in Tripura in 2019. The CPM won both the seats in 2014 even as the “Modi wave” swept the country. In this Assembly poll, the BJP with 35 seats, polled 43 percent (999093 votes) while the CPM with 16 seats polled 42.7 percent (992575 votes). The IPFT with eight seats polled 7.5 percent (173603 votes). This means that even though numerically the BJP will not be dependent on the IPFT for stability of the government, sustaining the coalition will be critical for the saffron party in 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
In Meghalaya, ensuring political stability will be the major challenge for the new ruling coalition. Both the Congress and its principal opponent National People’s Party (NPP), are trying to cobble up support to form the new government. However, numbers thrown up by the fractured mandate come as a grim reminder of political instability in the past when the state witnessed frequent changing of guard. Whichever party leads the new government, running it smoothly for full five years may be a tougher ball game for major partner of the ruling coalition than cobbling support to form government.
More parties in the ruling coalition will mean a smaller share of the pie for each constituent party. When figures just add up to the magic number, each constituent, irrespective of their strength, will have equal bargaining power as far as power sharing goes. Of 59 seats in the Meghalaya 60-member Assembly for which elections were held on 27 February, the ruling Congress won in 21, NPP 19, BJP 2, United Democratic Party (UDP) 6, Hill State People’s Democratic Party (HSPDP) 2, Khun Hynniewtrep National Awakening Movement 1, People’s Democratic Front 4, Nationalist Congress Party 1, and Independents 3.
As the size of the ministry is limited to 12 (including the chief minister), only 11 berths will be available for the new chief minister to distribute among the legislators of the ruling coalition. In Assam, Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal has not been able to expand his ministry even though the coalition government of BJP, Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) will be completing two years on 16 May.
Not just the legislators of the two coalition partners, a section of BJP legislators have also expressed their resentment over delay in expansion of the ministry. It has also given an opportunity to the Opposition Congress to leverage the issue to ministry expansion and link it to their allegations of failure of the BJP-government to undertake desired development work to fulfill the aspirations of the people.
Sonowal is currently heading a 11-member ministry, including six from BJP, two each from AGP and BPF but is apprehensive of expanding it as it might trigger disgruntlement among the ministerial berth-aspirants (not just among the BJP legislators but also among the legislators of the coalition partners who may be left out).
It was dissidence over ministry expansion during the third term of the previous Congress government headed by former chief minister Tarun Gogoi in Assam that kept him and his party leaders busy devising strategies to preventing a palace coup due to which development work took a back seat.
The mandate in Nagaland has brightened prospects of the BJP to become the minor partner in a ruling coalition. BJP was a coalition partner of the NPF-led Democratic Alliance of Nagaland but did not have the numbers to have much of an influence on the political affairs. BJP was the first to break out of joint declaration to boycott elections in Nagaland until a solution to the Naga issue was found and then all other parties followed suit.
With elections already over, the spotlight will be on the Naga peace talks. However, for the BJP, which is also running governments in neighbouring states of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh, it will be walking a tightrope as far as signing of the final accord with the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) is concerned. The BJP is already under tremendous pressure in these states to lift the veil of secrecy over the “Framework Agreement” signed by the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government at the Centre with the NSCN (IM).
These states have witnessed vigorous protest with citizens expressing apprehensions that “Framework Agreement” paved the way for inclusion of large areas in these states in “Nagalim.” The NSCN(IM)’s map of “Nagalim” includes whole of Nagaland, areas in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and areas in Myanmar and the rebel group has been insisting that any solution that is arrived must apply in “Nagalim”.
In all the three states, electoral victories will soon be dwarfed by governance challenges.
The author is a senior journalist and editor of NEZINE.
Published Date: Mar 04, 2018 16:25 PM | Updated Date: Mar 04, 2018 21:03 PM