North East polls 2018: BJP lotus blooms as Left crumbles in Tripura, Congress shut out in Nagaland

It couldn’t be sweeter than this for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his team: BJP has now become a powerful brother of seven sisters in the North East. Tripura, the country's last remaining fortress of red which until recently was considered impregnable, has crumbled and turned saffron. To the utter dismay of the Left Front and lot of secular-liberal forces, BJP is new manik (ruby) in Tripura crown.

Narendra Modi and Amit Shah. AFP

Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. AFP

In Christian-majority Nagaland, BJP is on way to form a government either with its pre-poll ally Nationalist Democratic People's Party (NDPP) or with its old ally Naga People's Front (NDF). In Meghalaya, another Christian-dominated state, the situation is fluid. No party or alliance has emerged as a clear winner and if the current trend holds, BJP may have an opportunity to stage a Manipur-like political coup and snatch other yet another state from the Congress.

If one considers the Meghalaya mandate closely, one would realise that this is a vote against Congress, which had been ruling the state for past 10 years. National People's Party (NPP), which leads in almost equal numbers of the seats as Congress, is a BJP ally at the Centre — though they contested elections separately in the state — and lots of others will be willing to go along with the BJP-NPP combine to form a government. What is significant is that BJP performed despite the Church openly campaigning against it with all its might. The people, Christian or otherwise, obviously didn’t adhere to Church’s diktat.

The BJP can now safely counter its rivals and critics' accusations of it being a north Indian “Hindi, Hindu, Hindustan” party, which would talk of only vegetarianism and with contempt for beef-eating population. The party wouldn’t be wrong in claiming that it is a pan-India party: Ruling 15 states on its own and 20 states with NDA allies.

BJP’s Tripura victory is astounding. In 2013 Assembly election, BJP only won 1.5 percent of the popular votes and almost all its candidates lost their deposits. From virtually no presence in Tripura, to a situation where it captured a two-third majority and over 50 percent of votes along with its new ally Indigenous Peoples Front of Tripura (IPFT): BJP’s performance in this border state could serve as a case study for students of politics. BJP’s rivals could also take a lesson from the kind of mobilisation and management the party undertakes: From state-level to booth-level.

The magnitude of BJP’s victory and scale of Communist Part of India (Marxist)'s defeat has shocked the Left Front to the extent that it has almost gone into hiding and is not making any statement. The Left Front, despite having small numbers, always thrived on its supposed intellectual prowess but the Tripura verdict shattered even that intellectual facade.

The Left ruled Tripura since 1977, with brief interregnum (1988-93) with Congress in power. Manik Sarkar has been chief minister of the state since 1998. Despite ruling for 35 years, all CPM tried to sell was poverty of Manik Sarkar, A rising India does not like to make virtue out of poverty. If Left had ruled the state for three-and-half decades with one chief minister for past 20 years, it should have showcased Tripura as a model state for development. The CPM proved that it was not in sync either with the popular aspirations, nor did it have the will to improve living conditions of people, in terms of business and infrastructure.

The victory instantaneously energised BJP rank and file. The celebrations at the BJP headquarters in Delhi and elsewhere underlined their belief in their leadership (Narendra Modi-Amit Shah) and their new found capability to rise from zero and trounce an otherwise aggressive cadre in their best-guarded fortress.

BJP leaders and workers will now take on Congress with renewed energy in Karnataka and later in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. Though result of one state election does not really impact outcome of another, what makes the difference is vigor and belief of the leaders and workers that they can do it again and make winning a habit, from municipal election to Parliament.

A resounding performance in the North East should also be seen through the lens of the upcoming 2019 general election. The BJP’s new found strength and alliances means that if the party suffers some losses in north India (where it currently has 100 percent to 90 percent of seats) in next parliamentary elections, it can be compensated by gains from North East.

In contrast to BJP’s 24x7 electoral war machine and Modi-Shah making appearance at BJP newly-built headquarters in New Delhi, Rahul Gandhi is Italy. The Congress president announced on Twitter that he was going to surprise his 93-year-old grandmother on Holi weekend. Back home, Congress has been wiped out in Tripura and rendered redundant in Nagaland.

The dampness in Congress mood was evident from early morning. But soon as the early trends started trickling in, some party leaders invented theories to defend their poor performance: As early as 9 am, a Congress spokesperson, speaking live Rajya Sabha TV from Congress’s 24 Akbar Road, speaking with a certain smugness, declared the emerging verdict in the North East as “defeat of democracy”. He then proceeded to accuse the BJP of tampering with electronic voting machines. Unfortunately for him, his theory had no takers.

Lotus has made North East its new home. Saffron is now region's favoured colour.

Follow our live updates of the North East polls here


Updated Date: Mar 03, 2018 17:47 PM

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