PM Modi had realized early on that just sending adequate funds to the NE states would not serve any long-term purpose.
Neiphiu Rio took oath as the Chief Minister of Nagaland on Thursday even as BJP President Amit Shah looked on along with his party colleagues and a couple of top central ministers. A day earlier the young and dapper Conrad Sangma had also taken oath in Shillong supported by the BJP and other regional parties like the UDP and PDF. However, the loudest cheers are still waiting for the young, affable and hardworking Biplab Deb who has been elected to head the first BJP-led govt in Tripura.
While there has been some limited participation of the BJP in the govt in Kohima for some time now, Meghalaya and Tripura were completely virgin areas. One may point out that the party has bagged only two seats in Meghalaya and the leader of the coalition is NPP chief Conrad. However, the fact remains that Conrad Sangma has been a constituent of the BJP-led NDA from the beginning and his understanding with the BJP even in these elections was no secret at all. Smaller formulations like the UDP and the PDF also found it easier to gravitate towards the BJP despite the four Congress stalwarts camping in Shillong.
PM Modi had emphasized the importance of the Ishaan Kone (North East corner) in our cultural beliefs.
The situation following the poll results in Kohima was even funnier. TR Zeliang refused to quit the CM post in a last-ditch effort to salvage his alliance with the BJP. The latter, however, preferred to honour the pre-poll alliance it had made with Rio’s NDPP.
As morning made way for noon on March 3, it became increasingly clear that the Left front, ruling Tripura for two and a half decades, was nowhere near challenging the BJP surge which swept the state in the next few hours. The results were variously defined as ‘stunning’, ‘unprecedented’ and ‘historic’ by the political commentators.
At the first glance, a leap from less than two percent votes and zero MLAs to a two-thirds majority figure does appear unprecedented. So also the fact that there is now just one state, Mizoram, in the North East which does not have the involvement of the BJP in the govt. Stunning? No. One just has to go back to the day when Narendra Modi took oath as Prime Minister. Or rather the day he outlined his vision for the country in the Parliament premises. Even then, PM Modi had emphasized the importance of the Ishaan Kone (North East corner) in our cultural beliefs. Since then the Ishaan Kone has found priority status in the Modi govt’s policymaking structure.
The PM had realized early on that just sending adequate funds to the NE states would not serve any long-term purpose. To win the hearts of the people, he would have to establish constant connectivity with the region. To drive home the point that his govt did not believe in ‘Ruling from Raisina’ Modi ensured that at least one central minister travelled to the region every fortnight. With the programme creating a favourable atmosphere, the number often rose to more than one minister every fortnight. Not just that, PM Modi himself travelled to the North East more than half a dozen times making sure he touched every corner of the region. And this does not include the election rallies. With strict monitoring and special emphasis on the functioning of the DONER ministry (established in the Vajpayee era), the first political dividends started showing in 2016 when Sarbananda Sonowal took oath as the first BJP chief minister in Guwahati. The electoral ‘conquest’ of Assam was a huge psychological leap which went a long way in destroying the myth that the North-East was a no-go area for the BJP.
The only party which did not seem to see it coming was the Congress.
It gave the BJP organization a firm footing to start talking to other powers in the region and a permanent conqueror Himanta Biswa Sarma who seems to be hell-bent on digging the grave of the Congress party in the NE.
Political developments from time to time amply showed that the Modi govt and the BJP organization were taking the NE extremely seriously. Regional political formations in various states of the region smelled the coffee, started tweaking their political strategies accordingly and pulled up their socks to do business with the BJP.
The only party which did not seem to see it coming was the Congress. Having enjoyed the monopoly as the only national party ruling the region, the Congress leadership relaxed into complacency even as state leaders tried in vain to sound the alarm bells. With Christian-majority states like Nagaland and Meghalaya dumping the Congress, the party cannot even say that Mizoram will not turn in the coming days. Mizoram also goes to polls this year.
It is just too simplistic and typically Lutyens’-like to dismiss the whole phenomenon as ‘NE parties always like to align with the centre’. The truth is voters, young and old, in the North Eastern states are ready to turn away from the Congress and try other formations which are either led by BJP or have BJP as a partner. All those arguments about language, religion, culture etc are obviously not impediments anymore.
It would be extremely interesting to observe the developments in the region in the days to come. Till then…more power to the Ishaan Kone!!
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.
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