Manipur Election Result 2017: Can BJP recreate its Assam success in another North East state?

Exit poll predictions for Manipur give an interesting insight on BJP. No matter what is the final outcome, the fact that the BJP has catapulted to the position of a challenger for power as the three exit polls suggest, two making it a close contender and one giving it victory, speaks volume of the party leadership's tenacity to spread its base in the North East.

After BJP's victory in Assam last year, the party since then has captured power through various means (defection and realignment) in Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Sikkim. In a by-election held in Tripura late last year, the BJP came second but increased its poll percentage and in the process relegated Congress to the third position. The party is gradually assuming a dominant role in the North East, a position which the Congress has held since Independence.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

While debate around exit poll numbers are focused on Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, the emergence of BJP in Manipur has been somewhat missed. The BJP has come to enjoy power in Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Sikkim, either as a dominant party or as an alliance partner, but not through direct electoral contest.

Like Assam, the BJP in Manipur was pitted against a three-time chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh, someone who had acquired an aura of invincibility in the state. His loss would be a huge blow to the Congress. It would lose another state and add to the string of losses that the party faced since 2013. It would also mean announcing that one of its most powerful regional leader has retired hurt and wounded.

The BJP and RSS had been working for long in this area without tangible results. It was Atal Bihari Vajpayee as prime minister who created a separate ministry for welfare of the North East. But small administrative measures were no substitute for ground politics.

Since the time Narendra Modi became BJP's prime ministerial candidate, he placed equal emphasis on the North East just as any other part of the country. He addressed multiple rallies in different parts of the North East and becoming the prime minister, North East remained high on the agenda. Party president Amit Shah gave this agenda a push and took it to party forums.

Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javdekar, heavyweight Assam minister and North East affairs coordinator for  the party, Himanta Biswa Sarma and Ram Madhav were made to camp there. The party went by the philosophy that if it didn't have strong leaders from within its own ranks, it should import leaders from other parties, most notably from the Congress, frustrated with the high command or against Ibobi Singh. Prominent BJP leaders leaders like N Biren or Y Erabot or even O Chauba, all had been part of the Congress.

Working with Manipur is the winning team of Assam — Ram Madhav, Himanta Biswa Sarma and BJP in-charge for Manipur Prakash Javadekar.

Updated Date: Mar 10, 2017 17:05 PM

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