Three days from now, we will know the results of the Assembly elections to the three northeastern States – Nagaland, Meghalaya and Tripura. Exit polls have predicted an upper hand for the BJP-led NDA and a setback for the Congress and the Left Front. It would not be surprising if this happens; indeed, the surprise would be if anything else were to happen.
The BJP conducted an aggressive campaign in all the three States, taking on the local rivals. In Meghalaya, it concentrated on the ruling Congress; in Tripura, the party put the nearly two-decade-old Left regime on the back foot; and in Nagaland, it sought to extinguish the small flame of hope the Congress had burning. There is a crisis in waiting for both the Congress and the Left. The former is fighting to retain its influence in the North-East. It has already lost Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur. Meghalaya remained its only real hope in the region, and that is now under siege. The Congress is desperate especially because Meghalaya is one of the few States that the party is left holding in the country.
The Left Front does not have anything to show except Tripura and Kerala. Given that regimes in Kerala generally keep changing every five years, the only bastion it could count upon was Tripura. The Congress’s decimation in the North-East has coincided with the BJP’s rise there. Imagine, the Congress could not find either candidates or money to contest all the 60 seats in Nagaland. It was reduced to fighting just 18 seats. Besides, none of its senior central leaders bothered to campaign in the State — an indication that it had given up even before the first vote was cast. The BJP too fielded candidates in only 20 seats, but it had a pre-poll alliance with a strong regional party there which is contesting 40 seats. In Tripura, the Congress is nowhere, since the fight is between the Left and the BJP. It’s only in Meghalaya that it sees an opportunity to retain its base — and that chance too is not beyond question.
The situation appears to be conducive for the BJP, which has been rapidly expanding its footprints in the North-East. If the party does well in this round of elections, it will be a continuation of its game plan of establishing its electoral influence in the region. In wanting to do so, it has cleverly tied up with influential regional parties — something that the Congress failed to achieve.