Assembly elections 2018: What results mean for BJP, Congress and the Left
In Northeast election results, BJP won two-thirds in Tripura defeating the Left, In Nagaland, BJP-NDPP alliance failed to secure a majority but looks to form govt with backing of allies, while Congress was the single largest party in Meghalaya.india Updated: Mar 04, 2018 12:54 IST
Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya may be small states, but in the larger scheme of Indian politics, Saturday’s results will have a role in shaping the narrative around key national and regional issues. Here is what it means for the dramatis personae:
The PM has, once again, shown that he lets the ballot box do the talking. Sections of Delhi were speculating that his popularity has faded after a few tight electoral contests or the recent bank fraud. But Narendra Modi has shown that he remains India’s most popular leader, spanning regions and communities. The man who could win Gujarat for the sixth time for his party has also shown he can wrest away Tripura from the BJP’s foremost ideological adversary, the Left Front. No PM has invested as much in the north-east politically.
By campaigning in all three states, Modi showed how each election matters to him. The verdict will boost his political capital even further.
The Congress president should be worried. The party gave up the fight in two of the three states -Nagaland and Tripura - even before the contest. Ceding the political space in this manner left supporters disenchanted, weakened the party organisation, and opened the doors for rivals. Gandhi will draw solace from the Meghalaya verdict, where Congress is the single largest party. But even here, power is not guaranteed. For him, winning Karnataka is now absolutely essential for the party to gain any momentum in the run-up to 2019.
Shah’s relentless quest for electoral success has led to the BJP becoming the country’s most dominant, almost hegemonic, political force. Modi praised Shah as the architect of the party’s victory march. In the last four decades, no party has enjoyed the kind of power the BJP does today, running the government in 20 states. In 15 of those, the chief ministers are the BJP’s own. Under Shah, the BJP has decisively shed the tag of being a north Indian, Hindi heartland party. The only disappointment - he was hoping for a better performance in Meghalaya.
The long-serving chief minister of Tripura, and one of the tallest leaders of the Indian Left, lost power. And he lost to the party communists see as the greatest threat: the BJP. Sarkar played a key role in bringing peace to Tripura, but an inability to deliver development and jobs cost the Left. Sarkar’s defeat is devastating news for the CPI(M). It is now confined to Kerala. Winning back West Bengal seems like a distant dream and its national profile will only fade further. It is, in all likelihood, curtains for this tall figure of Indian politics.
Irrespective of whether he is able to form the government, the Meghalaya CM was able to deliver Congress the highest number of seats in the state. This shows, yet again, the importance of regional leaders for the party to revive. But the fact that the Congress was considerably less than a majority mark also revealed Sangma’s limitations. If the Congress is able to stitch alliances - and prevent a Goa or Manipur-type situation - Sangma will emerge powerful. Otherwise, he has a long battle ahead in reviving the party.
The man who was Nagaland’s chief minister between 2003 and 2014 took a gamble in the last Lok Sabha polls. In the hope of being a Union minister, he moved to Delhi as an MP. The BJP did not pick him, and ever since, Rio was, unsuccessfully, trying to get back to the state. He finally formed a new party, NDPP, and allied with the BJP. Elected unopposed as an MLA, it was both a sign of his confidence, and a desire to return to the state that he quit his Lok Sabha seat even before the results. Rio - with the support of some smaller parties and independents - is almost certain to become Nagaland’s CM. The veteran returns to the seat of power in Kohima.