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BJP’s challenge in the NorthEast

Tripura, Meghalaya and Nagaland are heading towards Assembly elections this month. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rally near Agartala started the BJP election campaign. The BJP has emerged for the first time as a key player to oust the Congress which has been in power since independence. Tripura has had a Left Front Government for a long spell. The BJP has experimented in Tripura by drawing in Congress leaders and supporters. In Nagaland and Meghalaya it has formed alliances with regional parties. It has shown a singular capacity to adapt. It has succeeded in the last few years in forming governments in Assam, Arunanchal Pradesh and Manipur by tying up with regional parties. The North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) was formed in 2016 and has filled the vacuum created by Congress failures.

In all the North Eastern states going to the polls this month the BJP has addressed such sensitive issues as ethnic, religious and linguistic concerns. Hindutva has been played down to appease non Hindu communities in these states. So have issues like hyper- nationalism and the beef ban. It has focused on the lapses of incumbent governments instead. Prime Minister Modi has promised to resolve local grievances. The 7th pay commission pay scales have been guaranteed, especially in Tripura. In Nagaland, the BJP has severed ties with the Naga People’s Front (NPF) which had been its oldest ally in the North East and has formed an alliance with the Nationalist Progressive Democratic Party, which is a splinter group of the NPF. In Tripura BJP has tried to cash in on tribal discontent by aligning itself with the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura which wants a separate state. Of course, such alliances may generate cynicism among the voters as convenience is the only driving force.

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