North-East: BJP’s Gains
Asia News Agency
In the North-East, historically there’s a disconcerting underbelly of violence and conflict, exacerbated by New Delhi’s long-established overbearing ways towards the states and their own internal problems caused by immigration from Bangladesh, intra-border disputes, ethnic and religious clashes, protracted insurgencies and the consequently heavy military presence which led to the imposition of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act or AFSPA. The Centre’s use of the heavy-handed AFSPA reflects its confused attitude towards handling administrative issues in the North-East.
But writes Radhika Ramaseshan (Senior Journalist) 'decades of participation in electoral politics went some way in mitigating the sense of separation and disaffection among people, although the electoral process was often marked by serious conflicts challenging Delhi’s writ to assert suzerainty, as also a proliferation of regional forces and their propensity to strike a compromise with the ‘mainline’ parties such as the Congress and now the BJP, regardless of their policy outlook towards the region.”
Mainstreaming the northeast
Thus, in perspective “a high point for the current BJP leadership is the party’s growth and expansion in previous no-go territories. Assam and Tripura were always exceptions in the North-East in that they were closer to the ‘mainstream’ because of their demography and language which made for a degree of assimilation with the rest of India. Even in these circumstances, Assam and Tripura clearly demonstrated that they would not be dictated to by the Centre. Tripura for long was ruled by the Left Front that was perennially engaged in violent feuds with the Congress.”
The significance of the outcome of the elections in 2023, writers Ramaseshan “lies in pushing ahead — at least notionally — and adding a new element to the progression of integration of the North-East with ‘mainstream’ India. Like the Congress, the BJP sought to mark its footprint largely through electoral and political mechanisms, while pivoting itself in its dealings with the regional forces.
“Remarkably, the BJP carried out its agenda in two Christian-dominated states, Meghalaya and Nagaland, and in tribal-heavy Tripura. It returned to power in Tripura with a reduced majority, retained its account in Nagaland with its ally, the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP), and made peace with an estranged partner, the National People’s Party, and persuaded Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma to accommodate its MLAs in the new dispensation.
“That the leaders of Nagaland and Meghalaya willingly consorted with a ‘hardline Hindutva’-rooted BJP testified to the party’s resilience and pragmatism. The BJP’s local leaders made it clear that they had no issue with beef eaters, notwithstanding the enactment of anti-cattle slaughter laws and their rigorous enforcement in some other states. The attacks on churches and the ceaseless campaign against Christian missionaries hardly impacted the state parties and the voters who apparently made a distinction between realpolitik aimed at governance and ideologies…..”