Changing dynamics in Northeast
NRC in Assam is emerging as the most important issue to impact the fortunes of political parties
Following the main election manifesto of 2014, BJP had come out with a supplementary promise about the Northeast, which said that the party "will take initiatives for the permanent solution of the long pending issues of Bodos and other tribals of Assam, people of Sikkim ... and other neglected regions". The promise proved to be hollow. The disenchanted people are, therefore, being experimented with the spectre of NRC for Assam. The communal venom is being re-injected. However, BJP chief's claim of 'sweeping victory in the Northeast' is too difficult for him to realise.
The way the political scenario is changing in the region is indicative of a virulent political battle on communal lines. NRC is emerging as the most important political issue that can affect the fortunes of all political parties. The sharp polarisation may trigger violence in the region, particularly during the elections. The region is already affected by insurgency and related issues. Lack of development and employment opportunities is creating more and more antagonists for the ruling BJP combined at the Centre. The most likely fallout of all this is the reduction in the number of seats held by BJP presently. Its partners in the NDA are also not in a position to add more seats.
'Bangladeshi Muslim infiltration' has always been an important issue of the elections in the Northeastern states. In 2014 it was the biggest issue in Assam, which enabled BJP to garner half the seats in the states but getting only 36.86 per cent of votes. INC and AIUDF had got three seats each and one seat was bagged by an independent candidate. Due to the spectre of NRC this time, a certain percentage of votes polled by the independents are most likely to be shifted to either INC or the BJP. INC had bagged about 30 per cent of votes, while AIUDF (the minority front) had got 15 per cent. In the eventuality of sharp polarisation, things are expected to favour INC as a formidable force against BJP. As of now, BJP can safely hope for only four seats in Assam out of 14 seats in the states.
The prospects of BJP appear bleak in almost all the states in the Northeast barring Arunachal Pradesh. Out of the two seats of the state, BJP and INC have one each. There is no denying the fact that BJP with 46.62 per cent of votes share seems to be stronger than INC, which polled 41.62 per cent of votes in the last general election. However, a closer look at the margins of victory suggests a neck-to-neck fight.
As for the two seats of Manipur, they are presently held by INC, with the largest share of about 42 per cent votes. BJP is in the fourth position having only about 12 per cent votes. NPF came second with 20 per cent. The BJP and the NPF are allies now and therefore they are hoping to snatch one of the seats from the INC because they are now running the state government.
In Meghalaya, one seat is held by INC and the other by NPEP. Both seats were won with huge margins. INC had about 39 per cent of votes while BJP got only 9.16 per cent. NPEP secured about 23 per cent, with independents claiming 17.24 per cent. So, BJP can hope for only one seat in NDA with its alliance.
INC won the lone seat in Mizoram by a wafer-thin margin of only about six thousand votes. One independent candidate supported by MNF and the ecclesiastical authorities was runner-up. BJP has no political base in the state.
The one seat of Nagaland was won by NPF by too large a margin to be upset by any political party. It has almost 69 per cent of vote share. BJP is in alliance with NPF and presently part of ruling combine in the state. The one seat of Sikkim is with SDF, an alliance partner of BJP. Therefore, the NDA can hope to retain this seat.
BJP is hopeful in Tripura on the basis of recent election victory in the assembly election. This miracle happened because of its regional ally INPP. However, the INPP has recently announced that they will fight the Lok Sabha elections on their own. This has marred the prospect of BJP.
In brief, BJP can hope for only 5 seats and its allies can add another six seats in the Northeast. NDA's share could thus be about 11 seats out of 25 in the region. Each seat will have close contests. There is no indication of 'sweeping victory' for any political party either at the level of constituency or the Northeast as a whole.
(The views expressed are strictly personal)