BJP grabs North-East
The Assembly election results from the three northeastern states are a massive morale booster for the BJP and its allies. The BJP has won the Tripura Assembly elections by a two-thirds majority; along with its coalition partners, it will retain power in Nagaland; and, it is likely to be a part of the ruling coalition in Meghalaya, though the Congress with 21 seats is the single-largest party in the house of 60 members. The North-East has never been a stronghold of the BJP. It was either the regional parties or the Congress that formed the governments in the seven northeastern states. It is for the first time that the BJP will be in power in six out of the seven North-East states. Politically, the Assembly election results of Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya have the potential to set the tone for the rest of the Assembly elections due this year. The BJP-ruled states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh will go to polls later this year. Karnataka and Mizoram, where the Congress is still in power, will also witness Assembly elections in 2018. An emphatic victory for the BJP in the first round of Assembly elections scheduled for 2018 lends the party a great deal of confidence to take on the opposition in the forthcoming elections. The BJP had gone to woo the voters in the three crucial northeastern states with development as its main agenda. To further boost its development plank, the BJP had banked on the 'Act East Policy' that promises to enhance connectivity and business relations between India's North-East and the South East Asian countries. Top BJP leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP National President Amit Shah, had personally participated in the election campaign and held public rallies in the three poll-bound states. This underscores the importance they attached to this region in the overall scheme of things for the BJP. A large number of cadres from right-wing organisations were working behind the scenes to ensure a victory for the BJP. The northeastern states, where a sizeable population belongs to the Christian community, also has a large number of cadres regionally working for the right-wing ideology. Their perseverance finally paid off with the victory of the BJP in this geography. The success that the BJP has had in the region also debunks the theory that the party is popular only in the mainland Hindi speaking territory. BJP, which either rules or shares power with its allies in as many as 20 states, can truly boast of being a pan-India political party. The Opposition is in total disarray. The Congress campaign in the North-East concentrated mostly on Meghalaya, paying scant attention to Nagaland and Tripura. The results present a serious setback to the Congress, which is in power in Karnataka, where Assembly elections are due later in April-May. If it wants to remain relevant in Indian politics, the Congress will have to fight the Karnataka Assembly elections on a more serious note, where it will also have to battle an anti-incumbency factor. The BJP has been able to sell the idea well that if the same party rules in the state as in the Centre, executing developmental projects is smoother. So, people should vote for the BJP or its allies, that is the line the BJP is following and it seems to be paying off. As the BJP has fine-tuned its poll campaigns embedding the development plank into it, the next round of Assembly elections will be crucial for Congress President Rahul Gandhi, as he will have to make promises of what new his government in Karnataka is going to do if it retains power. His promises have to be effective so that they can ensure votes for his party. The Assembly election results of Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya will certainly embolden the confidence of the BJP and its allies as they go to polls across different states. Three big states, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, where the BJP is in power are scheduled to go to polls later this year. Despite everything working in its favour, the BJP cannot guarantee success in all the three states. In the recently held bypolls, the Congress has emerged victorious both in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, indicating that the people in these two states might spring a surprise or two for the BJP. It is in this context that the BJP winning in the North-East is relevant. If the BJP continues with its winning streak before it approaches the Madhya Pradesh or Rajasthan Assembly elections, it will be able to face the 2019 general elections on a far more confident note.