North-eastern States help BJP regain its lost vitality

Poornima Joshi New Delhi | Updated on March 04, 2018 Published on March 04, 2018

The party is back with a bang overtaking Congress, Left in three States


Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his lieutenant, BJP President Amit Shah, have once again seized the national political momentum by beating the Left in its last bastion and literally eradicating the Congress out of two north-eastern States.

After a brief hiatus when the BJP survived a close shave in the Gujarat polls and lost two crucial by-elections in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh with a simultaneous build-up of Opposition discourse around corruption scandals, especially the escape of diamantaire Nirav Modi, the results of Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya polls have more than revived the flagging spirits in the saffron quarters.

Congress-Mukt Bharat

The ruling party has got its mojo back just in time for Parliament, which reconvenes on Monday, for the second leg of the Budget Session. The Opposition, in contrast, looks shaky with Amit Shah’s pledge for a “Congress-Mukt Bharat” manifesting literally in Tripura and Nagaland, where the Grand Old Party failed to win even a single seat.

From just one seat in Nagaland with a vote share of just 1.75 per cent, the BJP has hopped on to 12 seats in the 59-member Assembly with a vote share of 15.3 per cent. While the local satrap, the Naga People’s Front has lost some ground by dropping about 11 seats – from 38 seats and a vote share of 47.04 per cent – and NPP coming down to 27 seats with a vote share of 38.8 per cent, the real loser is the Congress. While the Congress President Rahul Gandhi is once again not in the frame, his party has failed to open an account and its vote share has shrunk from 24.39 per cent in the 2013 Assembly polls to just 2.1 per cent this time in Nagaland.

With its local leadership complaining and Rahul Gandhi failing to address a single significant meeting in Nagaland during the campaign, the results in this State symbolise the structural demolition of the Congress and the growing strength of the BJP – similarly, in the Left citadel of Tripura, with 35 seats and a staggering 43 per cent of the vote share. The scale of this victory cannot be fully comprehended without comparing it with the 2013 polls when the BJP had not won a single seat and its vote share stood at 1.54 per cent. The Congress’ annihilation is apparent with its vote share shrinking from 36.53 per cent in 2013 to a miniscule 1.8 per cent.

The CPM’s tally dropped to 16 seats, but it still retained the 42.7 per cent vote share. In the 2013 elections, the CPM won 49 seats and a vote share of 48.11 per cent. The Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura won eight seats with a 7.5 per cent vote share.

A deafening silence at the Congress headquarters here is accompanied only by the scathing criticism that came from its ally, the Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee, who, said: “Instead of terming it a victory for the BJP, I would call it a failure and surrender on behalf of the Congress and the CPM.”

Rahul Gandhi’s absence from the scene at a time when the PM was addressing BJP workers at the ruling party headquarters is matched only by the manoeuvring skills of its managers – Ahmad Patel and Kamal Nath – who were dispatched to Meghalaya to stack the numbers in its favour.

The BJP’s pointman, Himanta Biswa Sarma, seems to be doing much more in bettering his party’s chances at government-formation, even when the Congress is the single-largest party in the State.

In the 59-member Meghalaya Assembly, BJP has won two seats with a vote share of 9.6 per cent.

The Congress has won 21 seats with a vote share of 28.5 per cent. National People’s Party (NPP) has won 19 seats with a vote share of 20.6 per cent. Then there are provincial groups like the United Democratic Party (UDP), which has won six seats and a vote share of 11.6 per cent.

The People’s Democratic Front won four seats and a vote share of 8 per cent. There are three independents and another group such as the Hill State People’s Democratic Party with two seats and 5.3 per cent vote. There is one legislator from the NCP.

The Congress has dropped eight seats and significant vote share since the 2013 Assembly elections when it had won 29 seats with a vote share of 34.78 per cent.

An afternoon meeting with Himanta Biswa Sarma led to Dr Donkupar Roy of the United Democratic Party announcing his support for the Conrad Sangma-led NPP, which, in turn, is backed by the BJP. Sangma was set to stake his claim to form the government in this State as well.

In terms of their electoral significance, these three north-eastern States may just account for five Lok Sabha seats. But clearly, the scale and manner of the BJP’s growth at the Congress’ expense, has shifted the momentum. It’s advantage Modi and BJP all over again.

Published on March 04, 2018
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