While Congress’ Look East Policy hardly brought anything to the North-east, the BJP’s “Act East” appears to bear some fruits at least for the party, if not for the region. A special motive of the newly-named policy is already clear for anyone to see. By acting east, it’s more like ‘taking east’. The party has already ‘taken’ Assam and desperate to grab its neighbours. There is a massive effort to replace all the Congress flags, still held high in three North-east states, with saffron ones. Among the three states, the biggest focus is on Manipur where election is due next year and Meghalaya going to polls in 2018.
The one change the North-east has seen since the coming of BJP at the Centre is the frequent visits of Central ministers to the region. The reason given was ‘Centre at NE doorstep’, which did not happen during Congress-led UPA’s time. There is no denial that NE needs more attention than it received all the past decades. The BJP’s endeavour is welcome. But, is the BJP actually not trying to break the “East jinx” by such initiatives? Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s overnight stay in Shillong, perhaps first time by any prime minister in recent times, is definitely going to be a big boost for party cadres in Meghalaya. Hundreds, if not thousands, more would be inclined to join the saffron brigade by this very visit.
The BJP, by putting development ahead of its Hindutva agenda, has already broken the resistance in the minds of non-Hindu people of the region. The Congress’s usual campaign against the BJP terming the latter communal or anti-Christian/Muslim seems to have become a cliché and found less takers. It was seen in the last Congress debacle in Tura Lok Sabha bye-election where chief minister Mukul Sangma and his legislator wife Dikkanchi D Shira, who was the Congress candidate, aggressively campaigned against the BJP terming it an anti-Christian party, is a case in point.
The Congress had almost become complacent about its North-east bastion, and facing the consequence now. Notwithstanding the BJP’s political motive, the north-eastern region is benefiting from the increased focus of the NDA government. And given the lack of strong political voice in the region to fight the saffron aggression, the BJP might be successful in holding reins in a few more states. But it is too far to judge how that political change is going to bring change in the lives of people. But change should be given a chance. It might work!
(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on October 7, 2016)