Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura — perceived as part of the ‘non-mainstream’ Northeast — account for only five Lok Sabha seats. But the February assembly elections in these three northeastern states have underscored their significance in this age of coalitions.
Conversely, scheduling the announcement of results on the day of the Union budget (February 28) has revealed New Delhi’s indifference towards these fringe players.
The countdown to the 2014 Lok Sabha polls began with elections in Tripura on February 14 followed by Meghalaya and Nagaland on Saturday. Assembly elections in six more states are to be held later this year.
These states include Karnataka, Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram.
Meghalaya and Nagaland will be a test for the Congress’ ability to regain lost ground, though it has often led coalition governments in the former. The attention on Tripura, on the other hand, is its status as the last Left Front post, with West Bengal and Kerala having fallen in 2011.
“The outcome of the Lok Sabha elections in the Northeast often hinges on which party or coalition rules a state. So, if the Left holds both the Lok Sabha seats in Tripura, the Naga People’s Front has the lone seat in Nagaland while the Congress and NCP share the two seats in Meghalaya. These one or two seats will matter if the parliamentary polls yield a fractured verdict,” said Patricia Mukhim, editor of a Shillong-based English daily.