When Assam’s current Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma convened the North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), it was almost seen as a miracle of sorts, due to the vast political landscape and varied interests of the people of India’s Northeast region. They stole Assam from under the watchful eyes of the Congress by forging an unlikely alliance with regional party Asom Gana Parishad (AGP).
Thereafter, the story of the BJP in the Northeast has been a story of alliances. The mainland-India party, which had hitherto played a negligible role in the Northeast, soon established its reputation in the region. But it seems like the BJP’s fairytale underdog story in the state might be coming to end because all good things, good and bad, come to an end.
When Himanta Biswa Sarma spoke at Delhi’s Ram Lila ground on January 13, he had proudly announced that he had made the Northeast “Congress-free” and brought it under the umbrella of the North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA).
What the NEDA convenor did not address in his speech is that cracks have been starting to appear in the alliances that BJP has forged in the region. The reason for this? It is largely the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 which has torched the entire Northeast region and engulfed it in flames.
NPP President and Meghalaya CM Conrad Sangma was the first “ally” to speak out against the Bill when he said that his state was vehemently opposed to the Bill and threatened to walk out of the BJP-alliance. Perhaps spurred on by Sangma’s bravado, AGP President Atul Bora soon traveled to Delhi and announced withdrawal from the BJP-AGP coalition in the state.
The drama has continued ever since, with many of the Chief Ministers in the BJP coalition governments, including Manipur CM N Biren Singh, Nagaland CM Neiphiu Rio as well as Mizoram CM Zoramthanga openly opposing the Bill, which the NEDA convenor, Himanta Biswa Sarma, is adamant to pass through Parliament.
The situation has gone from bad-to-worse for the BJP as many leaders from the Northeast belonging to parties affiliated with the NEDA such as the IPFT (Tripura), MNF (Mizoram), NPP (Meghalaya) arrived in Guwahati today to discuss steps to be taken against the Bill. After the AGP-BJP split in Assam, it is believed that there is more lingering tension in the air for the BJP leaders as leaders such as Sangma are threatening to pull out of the alliance with the BJP.
The BJP leadership is seemingly secure in Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, and Assam, but with a political uprising on the cards before the Lok Sabha elections, who can say with conviction how long these alliances will last? The BJP and NEDA have firmly put their feet down as far as the fate of the Bill is concerned, with no other option being considered but a passage in the Parliament. As the might of the once miraculous NEDA recedes, the BJP might want to reconsider its stance on the Bill before all is lost. Which NEDA ally will join the anti-Bill movement next? The Bodoland People’s Front (BPF), perhaps? Surely the BPF, as well as other, will follow suit if support for the Central Government among the people of the region keeps slipping at this rate.
Copyright©2023 Living Media India Limited. For reprint rights: Syndications Today