Congress faces uphill task in Meghalaya, BJP-NDPP appear confident in Nagaland ahead of crucial Assembly polls
Congress is facing an uphill task in Meghalaya while the BJP hopes to acquire a share of the power riding on the shoulders of its new ally NDPP in Nagaland.
Guwahati: The ruling Congress is facing an uphill task to retain power in Meghalaya while the BJP hopes to acquire a share of the power riding shoulders of its new ally Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) in Nagaland even as the two Christian-majority states in the North East go to Assembly polls on Tuesday.
After making discernible waves in tiny Tripura where the BJP put up a strong challenge to the ruling Left Front led by Manik Sarkar in the polls held on 18 February, the saffron party eyes to storm corridors of power in scenic Meghalaya, the Abode of Clouds, by trouncing the Mukul Sangma-led Congress.
In Tripura, BJP allied with a tribal political party called Indigenous People's Front of Tripura (IPFT) to challenge the Left's last bastion in the country planking its campaign on fast-paced development. But in Meghalaya, the BJP has chosen to go at it alone by fielding 47 candidates among the total 60 Assembly seats, even though rival Congress has alleged covert ties between the BJP and formidable regional group, National People’s Party (NPP), the BJP’s ally in Manipur and New Delhi.
In Nagaland, the ruling Nagaland People’s Front (NPF) is being challenged by the newly-formed alliance of Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) and BJP which has snapped its 15-year-long ties with the NPF before deciding to go with NDPP led by former chief minister Neiphiu Rio.
While the NDPP, which is contesting 40 seats leaving rest 20 to the BJP, exudes confidence to form the next government in Nagaland, the BJP, however, keeps its option open as its charge in Nagaland Kiren Rijiju maintains that BJP still considers NPF as its friend though a seat-sharing arrangement could not be worked out with the party before polls. Congress has contested only in 18 constituencies in Nagaland the party's base has fast depleted there over the years.
Polling will take place for 59 seats each in Meghalaya and Nagaland. In Meghalaya, the election has been countermanded in 43 Williamnagar LAC in the wake of the killing of NCP candidate Jonathone N Sangma in an IED blast during campaigning; while in Nagaland, Rio has been declared elected unopposed from the Northern Angami-II constituency.
The poll results will be declared on 3 March along with that of Tripura, where elections were held on 18 February.
The BJP has resorted to a high-octane campaign in Meghalaya led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah, where numerous senior BJP leaders and Union ministers campaigned in an effort to unseat the 'corrupt and inefficient' Congress which has ruled the state for two consecutive terms. BJP has placed Union tourism minister KJ Alphons in Meghalaya for months to woo Christian voters there.
Most of the regional parties in Meghalaya in the fray including the NPP, UDP, HSPDP and PDF have been very critical of the ruling Congress during the electioneering while they have chosen to remain obviously soft on the BJP. This has prompted rival Congress to accuse tacit understanding between the BJP and the regional groups in Meghalaya.
Meghalaya, in particular, is important for the Congress, where it has been ruling for 10 years on the trot. The Congress has deployed its full force in electioneering to prevent the BJP from making inroads among voters in Meghalaya. AICC president Rahul Gandhi has addressed several election rallies and party workers' meetings in Meghalaya to warn the voters against 'divisive designs' of the BJP.
The Gandhi scion also attacked the NPP for being the front of the BJP in Meghalaya and to raise the alarm that voting for the NPP, which has fielded candidates in all the seats, will amount to voting for the 'communal' BJP. The Congress has harped on the BJP-led central government's attempt to win over Church bodies in Meghalaya by offering Rs 70 crore development grant to churches under Swadesh Darshan scheme, which was not accepted by Church bodies.
The BJP, on the other hand, has planked its electioneering on development promises and criticism of the 'corrupt and inefficient' Congress regime. It has been continued attacking the ruling Congress over lack of development and poor infrastructure in respect to surface communication, health, education and tourism etc while promising to make Meghalaya a model state in the country.
Besides, all the senior BJP leaders including the prime minister, while hitting the campaign trail in Meghalaya, have tried to project the party as a Christian-friendly one – like any other party in the fray.
In Nagaland where the prolonged peace process to find a solution to the vexed Naga political problem has remained a burning issue in the society, the NDPP-BJP alliance is posing a tough challenge to the ruling NPF. The NPF has resorted to painting BJP as anti-Christian during the electioneering while the BJP-NDPP has resorted to flaunting their plans to usher in all-encompassing development in Nagaland besides promising a final solution to the Naga imbroglio at the earliest.
The elections in Meghalaya and Nagaland are being held under strict security vigil because of the looming threat from militants. An NCP candidate was killed by ultras in Meghalaya while sporadic incidents of pre-poll violence were reported from some parts of Nagaland in the runup to the polls.
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