BJP’s do-or-die battle against Cong in NE

AGARTALA/GUWAHATI, MAR 12 (IANS) | Publish Date: 3/12/2019 11:47:48 AM IST

BJP has embarked on a do-or-die battle to win as many of the 25 Lok Sabha seats as it can in eight North Eastern states. For its part, the Congress party has set off a determined attempt to regain its lost ground in the region.

Some political forecasters in the North East feel that since all the eight states in the region are now ruled either by the BJP or its allies, the saffron party holds the advantage.

However, other political analysts are of the opinion that the stiff opposition to the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 in the entire North Eastern region- home to 45.58 million people as per the 2011 census- could upset the BJP’s bid to win the targeted number of seats.

Assam’s 14 constituencies will see polling in three phases on April 11, 18 and 23. Manipur and Tripura, which have two seats each, will vote in two phases, on April 11 and 18. Meghalaya (two seats), Nagaland (one), Arunachal Pradesh (two), Mizoram (one) and Sikkim (one) will go to the polls on April 11.

In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) allies, including NPF (1), NPP (1) and the SDF (1), together won 11 seats with the dominant party bagging 8 seats. The BJP had won 7 seats in Assam and 1 in Arunachal Pradesh.

The Congress, which since 1952 has had a stronghold in the region, also managed eight seats in 2014-- 3 in Assam, 2 in Manipur and 1 each in Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Mizoram.

Five years ago, the Assam-based AIUDF won three seats while the CPI (M) secured 2 seats in Tripura. Independent candidate Naba Kumar Sarania (Hira) won from Assam’s Kokrajhar constituency.

Political analyst Samudra Gupta Kashyap observed that the scenario in the Northeast was heavily tilted in favour of the BJP and its allies.

“However, the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 has had some negative impact on the BJP’s overall image. The AGP quitting the BJP-led alliance two months ago over the bill could cause some damage. “That is exactly why the BJP has reopened its channels with the regional party. It has to carry out some exercise to avert the erosion in support base triggered by the Citizenship issue,” Kashyap told IANS.

While Neiphiu Rio’s Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (in Nagaland) and Zoramthanga’s Mizo National Front (in Mizoram) would obviously not leave the lone seats in Nagaland and Mizoram to the saffron party, it would be difficult to convince Conrad K. Sangma’s National Peoples’ Party (NPP), a member of NEDA, to share even one of the two seats in Meghalaya, he said.

The tribals, who constitute 27-28 per cent of the population in the region, always play a significant role in the politics of the mountainous region.

According to Manipur University Professor and political observer Chinglen Maisnam, the Citizenship Bill has changed the mindset of the people in the region during the past two months.

Maisnam also said that non-publication of the contents of the Naga peace talks agreement and the agitations for hiking salaries and allowances of the government employees as per the recommendations of the 7th Pay Commission and few other local issues would affect the electoral prospects of the BJP and somewhat help the Congress.

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