India’s Northeast, the hotbed of ethnic, linguistic and religious diversity, is witnessing the phenomenal rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The BJP with its "sabka saath sabka bikash" mission, seems determined to expand its base to every nook and corner of the country. It has made its presence felt in all the northeastern states including the Christian-majority states of Nagaland, Manipur, and Mizoram.
In the recently held assembly elections in Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya BJP and its allies have won people's mandate.
In Tripura, BJP won 33 seats with 38.97 per cent votes. Tripura, once a left bastion, has witnessed the rise of the Lotus. The left won 49 seats in the 2013 Assembly election with 48.11 per cent votes, Congress won 10 seats with 36.53 per cent.BJP managed to get only 1.54 per cent votes. In the 2018 Tripura Assembly election BJP defeated CPI(M) by winning 36 seats in the 60-member Tripura assembly. CPI(M) could win only 16 seats. BJP got 43 per cent vote share and CPI(M) could garner 42.7 per cent votes.
In Nagaland BJP's ally, NDPP won 25 seats with 32.22% votes while BJP got 12 seats with 18.81 per cent votes. NDPP-BJP coalition won 37 seats and formed Govt led by Neiphiu Rio. A decade ago in 2013 BJP managed to win only one seat with 1.8% votes. Indian National Congress got 24.9 per cent votes. This time Congress' vote share declined to 3.55 per cent. The North East remained a bastion for the Congress party for decades after independence. But of late its political space is fast eroding. The Christian-dominated state of Nagaland has witnessed a phenomenal rise of BJP., BJP won 12 seats with a 15.3 per cent vote share in the 2018 assembly election. This time vote share has increased to 18.81 per cent.
In Meghalaya Conrad Sangma-led National People's Party won 26 seats, United Democratic Party 11, BJP 02, and Hill State People's Democratic Party 02. These parties have formed a post-poll alliance and formed Govt led by Conrad Sangma. Two independent MLAs have also supported the Govt.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has blessed the swearing-in ceremony of Conrad Sanga on 7th March 2023. A decade ago BJP had little presence in the political landscape of the state.In 2018 the party could win 2 seats with 9.6 per cent votes. In 2023 it has won three seats. In 2013 assembly election Congress got 34.8 per cent votes.In this election, the vote share of the Congress party has declined to 13.14 per cent.
Earlier BJP had been able to win people's mandate in the Christian-concentrated Northeastern states of Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh. In 2022 Assembly election in Manipur BJP won 32 seats in the 60-member Assembly. Congress had to be content with 5 seats only. BJP’s vote share in the state increases from 2.12% in 2012 to 36.6 per cent in 2017 and 37.83 per cent in 2022. In 2012 Assembly election the party contested in 19 Assembly seats but failed to open its account. But in 2017 the party won 21 seats and formed Government with Naga People’s Front (NPF) and National People’s Party(NPP).
In Manipur, the Christian population is 41% and in Arunachal Pradesh Christian population constitutes 30.26 per cent of the total population. This region of the country is home to more than 400 ethnic communities with their unique cultural heritage.
In the last assembly election in 2019 in Arunachal Pradesh BJP got a landslide victory winning 41 seats in the 60-member Arunachal assembly. Congress which ruled the state for a long period of time in the past had to be content with 4 seats only. BJP got 50.86 per cent popular votes while Cong could garner only 16.85 per cent votes.
In the parliamentary election, BJP won both the parliamentary seats of Arunachal Pradesh. Its vote share increased from 47.80 per cent in 2014 to 58.16 per cent in 2019 while Congress’ vote share declined from 43.7 per cent in 2014 to 20.49 per cent in 2019.
Earlier, Assam witnessed a saffron surge in the 2014 parliamentary election and in April 2016 Assembly election. In a state where the Muslim population constitutes 34% of the state, BJP won 60 seats on its own and 84 with its allies. Its vote share has gone upto 30 per cent in 2016 from 11 per cent in the 2011 Assembly election. In the 2014 Parliamentary election, the party won 7 seats out of 14. The Congress won 3 and the AIUDF won 3. In the 2019 Parliamentary election, it managed to win 9 with a 31.5 per cent vote share. Cong won 3, AIUDF 1 and one won by an independent candidate. In the 2021 assembly election, the BJP-led NDA again got people's mandate with 75 seats.BJP alone got 60 seats with a 33.21 per cent vote share.
Till a few years ago BJP’s presence in Assam's Brahmaputra valley was minimal; it was almost a negligible political entity. The Congress party, once boasted of its " Ali-Kuli " ( Muslim and Tea community) vote bank, seems diminishing. A large share of its Muslim vote bank has been taken away by the Badaruddin Ajmal-led Islamic party, AIUDF and in the tea community BJP has successfully made inroads. Its Dibrugarh MP Rameswar Teli from the tea community has been made a central minister in Modi Government. Another leader Kamakhya Prasad Tasa has been elected to the upper house of parliament. Narendra Modi’s commitment to “sabka saath sabka bikash” has been well-received by all sections of society. His image of a leader with zero tolerance for corruption has also helped him to earn people’s trust. Social security schemes have reached to all sections of society regardless of caste, creed and religion. Schemes to build concrete houses in remote hilly areas, the construction of toilets, free electricity to poor families, and free distribution of gas cylinders have helped BJP to win people's trust.
Once perceived as a ‘Hindi-Hindu’ party by the opponent/critics, BJP has now crossed all geographical, linguistic, and religious barriers and enjoys wide acceptance across the country. The party now spreads in every nook and corner of the country. It has moved ahead with its commitment to development and cultural nationalism. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has categorically stated that development is his government’s conviction and commitment.
In the 2014 and in 2019 Parliamentary elections, the party fought elections on development issues with unapologetic adherence to its core ideology. In the recently held Assembly elections, development was the most circulated issue. The Northeast region witnessed the rise of militancy after independence. The development narrative was subverted, violence became the recurring theme in the socio-political discourse of the region. More than a dozen militant groups have laid down arms and come back to the mainstream. Uncompromising stand on national issues and fight against corruption have also helped BJP to win a place in people's hearts.
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