For decades the state governments have in the eight states of North-East(NE) been ruled by Congress and other State parties. The turnout from this year’s i.e. 2016 state elections in Assam has undoubtedly stirred up things in the NE as the BJP won with high majority votes. It contested for the first time in the Bodoland Territorial Council Elections and even won a seat. BJP led in 69 assembly constituencies in the Lok Sabha elections 2016 by winning 7 Lok Sabha seats in Assam. BJP and its allies Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) won a combined 86 seats in the 126-member Assam assembly.
Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal came in legislature who won against Congress veteran Tarun Gogoi, who accepted his party’s defeat and affirms to play a constrictive opposition in the Assembly. Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself showed his gratitude and happiness towards the people of Assam and even commented that this win of BJP was “historic by all standards”.
This victory is indeed “historic”. An important accomplishment to be noticed, is that, out of eight states in NE- BJP has strong hold in Assam and Arunanchal Pradesh of, as well as forming alliances with Nagaland People’s Front(NPF) in Nagaland and Sikkim Democratic Front(SDF) in Sikkim, which puts the larger BJP family -the NDA- holding the reins in four of the eight states of the region at present.
So does that mean that NE-doors have been opened up for NDA?
Here’s what we know:
Reasons for BJP’s victorious win-win in Assam
- Brilliant Strategy placed by the BJP as it let the party choose it leaders from other alliance parties without quibbling about ideologies. The CM himself has been once anointed as “jatiyo nayak” (National hero) after his PIL forced the quashing of the Illegal Migrants( Determination By Tribunals) Act of 1983. The party also welcomed with open arms Himanta Biswa Sarma, onetime Gogoi lieutenant who quit the Congress in frustration over the rise of Gogoi’s son in the party.
- The BJP repackaged its core Hindutva agenda in the Assamese context till it became an unbending stance on illegal immigration from Bangladesh.
- Fast-pace development plans- such as, Initiation for all round development with 24×7 power & water supply, ensuring 100 percent irrigation coverage of arable lands, offering employment to 25 lakh youths and withdrawal of oral interviews for 3rd & 4th category government jobs in the State, etc.
Here’s what we need to know:
Out of the eight states of NE, Mizoram, Meghalaya and Nagaland are Christian majority states. Assam, though a Hindu-majority state, has a large presence of Muslims, mostly of Bangladeshi origin, and Tripura is dominated by Bengali Hindus who migrated to that state during the 1947 partition. Buddhists, practitioners of an animistic faith called Donyi- Polo and Hindus make for the majority of the population of Arunachal Pradesh while the majority of Manipur’s population is made of Meiteis who are mostly Vaishnavites with Christian tribals and a small section of Pangals (who are Muslims) making up the rest. The overwhelming majority of the people of Sikkim are Hindus and Buddhists. The NE, thus, is an eclectic mix of various tribes and peoples practising different religions.
Now that BJP is in alliance with NPF and SDF it busts the myth that BJP’s appeal is limited to only Hindus, and that too the caste Hindus. If that were the case, Nagaland’s Christians would not have brooked their ruling party aligning itself with BJP. With BJP training its guns for Manipur elections as well one expects since Meities are staunch Hindus therefore will now be inclined towards the BJP, the surprise is that the BJP is also working among the Christians who are mostly Nagas, in the state. Strangely enough the cow slaughter ban, the move against conversions by the Church, which is championed by the RSS and the extended Sangh Parivar does not seem to have touched Nagas here. It is also trying to get a hold in Meghalaya, another Christian state, and getting a good response. Meghalaya elections are in 2018, and the BJP has time to expand its network. The thriving Marwari community, who control most of the business across the NE are staunch BJP supporters. But the problem isn’t religion across these areas, it is the land. People are very protective of their lands hence there are laws in some states for non-tribals from preventing them to purchase tribal lands. In fact there are taxes imposed on immigrants for their stay in the state.
The development that the BJP party is trying to bring about in the NE region is greatly being supported, as people want change in their region, economically as well as politically. Also because these attempts may actually connect the “mainland” (as many call it) India to the North-East India, which may result in the end of various disputes in the region. This region has always felt neglected and now there is an opportunity where these people might get normal recognition as Indians as the rest of India. The central governments hardly ever paid attention to these regions or the did anything to resolve insurgencies in states like, Manipur, Nagaland, etc. Then most of these states are the border to many countries which results to infiltration of migrants which hampers the economy the surrounding the aura of NE.
Although the scenery is now changing, the issues are still delicate in the NE. They want development but without any encroachment on their ‘tribalism’. They are territorial people given to the fact that they have lived on their own sustaining themselves from the environment, food, vegetation, etc., that is available here. The people here are highly tourist friendly, also the beauty of landscape and exotic vegetation makes it a highly desired adventure destination, which could be used as an asset in increasing national economy at large.
Now to answer my question, is it the rise of the Lotus or just a normal change in NE politics, I would have to say, I agree with both. It is indeed an opportunity for the BJP to make their roots stronger and hold a firm grip in these regions, but in that effort the face of NE might completely change in lieu with the development plans for the region, and it is also a change in the politics, since now the two huge national political parties(INC and BJP) are contesting in these areas. Also the competition and party performance has a chance of improvement, or else, earlier it only used to be Congress and any other state party. What we can only hope for is, this blooming of Lotus in Assam advances the state performance, simultaneously, also contributing in further advancements of other NE states.
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