The historic defeat of the Congress will mean a lot for the political scenario of the North-east. The party, for the first time, has lost its top position in terms of the Lok Sabha seats in the region. The country’s oldest party managed just seven of the 25 seats of eight north-eastern states. The BJP, riding on the Modi wave, shot up its 2009 tally of four to a commendable seven despite absence of any strong state-level leadership. One of the two seats in Arunachal Pradesh also went to the party while its ally Nagaland People’s Front (NPF) won two seats – one in Manipur and the lone seat of Nagaland. In Meghalaya, the party made a right move by roping in Purno Sangma’s National People’s Party (NPP). The veteran leader was given his ninth Lok Sabha term by the electorate of Garo Hills. Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) that won the lone seat of the state is a fence sitter and likely to toe the line of the party at the Centre.
Thus the BJP having its direct and indirect presence in five of the eight states of the region is going to strongly influence the political scenario of North-east. Political instability that even resulted in overnight change of government is not unfamiliar to the region. Congress legislators of Arunachal Pradesh had jumped into the BJP bandwagon when the saffron party ruled at the Centre under Atal Behari Vajpayee’s leadership. Meghalaya is notorious for its political crisis having seen over 26 chief ministers and two stints of President’s Rule in its 42 years of statehood.
None of the states in the North-east has ever been ruled by the BJP except for Arunachal Pradesh for a brief period. However, the notion that the party does not have grassroots support in NE states other than Assam was proved wrong by the BJP candidate for Shillong constituency. While the winner Congress’s sitting MP, Vincent H Pala, secured a little over two lakh votes, BJP’s Shibun Lyngdoh managed nearly one lakh, till counting reached its last phase. Modi being an assertive person will definitely push hard to strengthen the party’s base in the hill states besides luring the politicians. Political drama might unfold in the coming months in some states of the North-east.
(Published as editorial in Meghalaya Guardian on May 17)