#NorthEastElections: A Big Test of BJP’ s Outreach in New Frontiers

Election Commission has announced dates for polls to 3 north eastern states of Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura. BJP has been marching ahead in North East post Lok Sabha elections. After winning Assam, it has been able to form government in Arunachal and Manipur. In Nagaland and Sikkim, the ruling parties are part of NDA. Out of the 8 North Eastern states, NDA in power in 5 except for Megahlaya, Mizoram and Tripura. These elections are a big test of whether BJP’s North East outreach policy is working or not as party hopes to benefit from anti-incumbency against governments in Tripura and Meghalaya. In Tripura, the Left has been in power for 25 years. In Meghalaya, Congress has been in power for the past 15 years.

Can Left lose its one of the two remaining bastions? 

Total Seats: 60, Left 50, BJP 6, INC 4

It will not be easy to dislodge Manik Sarkar despite anti incumbency in a quadrangular contest. Anti-incumbency votes are likely to be split which gives Left an edge. CPM won both the Lok Sabha seats in 2014 despite strong Modi wave nationally. BJP got 5.8% of the votes. It was in contention in 12 seats where it finished runner up and second runner up. BJP recently got a boost when six TMC MLAs joined the party. These MLAs had defected from the Congress to TMC and now from TMC to BJP.  These existing MLAs also likely to suffer from anti-incumbency and are not sure shot to be re-elected. We saw this in Gujarat, most Congress defectors lost.

BJP’s partner NPP’s strength in Meghalaya provides BJP the edge

Total: 60, INC 29, UDP 8, Independents 13

In Meghalaya, BJP has bright chances, party along with ally National People’s Party received 32% vote share and was leading in 23 assembly seats in Lok Sabha elections 2014, same as Congress. The anti-incumbency against current Congress government will favour BJP here. People could be swayed by other north eastern states voting for BJP over the last few years.

Conclusion of peace accord with NSCN-IM will be one of the major issues in Nagaland

Total Seats: 60, NPF 38, INC 8

In Nagaland (hit by insurgency), BJP’s ally Nagaland People’s Front has been ruling for the past 15 years and here the risk of an element of anti-incumbency creeping in is surely there. However, BJP raised expectations for a lasting peace after the Centre and the NSCN-IM signed a framework agreement in 2015, which is expected to help the alliance. There is a growing demand that elections be postponed till the completion of the negotiation process with the six Naga National Political Groups. This will play a role in turnout.

Significance of North East Elections 2018

Though, not very important from Lok Sabha point of view, as these regions have very few seats, a win in these states will provide a psychological boost to BJP, increasing the acceptance of the party, making it a truly national party.

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