Beyond BJP’s rise, NPP emerges as biggest regional outfit in Northeast
The five-year-old party now has significant presence in three states in the region, with numbers enough to help form coalition governments.Meghalaya Elections 2018 Updated: Mar 04, 2018 16:46 IST
Beyond the BJP’s meteoric rise in the Northeast and Congress’s steep fall, the National People’s Party has emerged as the biggest regional player in three of the states in the region.
Founded by former Lok Sabha speaker and Meghalaya chief minister, the late PA Sangma, the party is now managed by his children, James, Conrad and Agatha, who led it to its best showing in the just-concluded state assembly elections.
With 19 seats, the party is second to Congress, which has 21 representatives in the Meghalaya assembly, but is well short of majority.
While Conrad, the party president, is a Lok Sabha MP, James and Agatha won assembly seats comfortably on Saturday — a day ahead of PA Sangma’s second death anniversary.
It seems likely that they would cobble up the numbers and form the government, and Conrad could become the next chief minister, a development which would make his father — who had reached the post three decades ago — proud.
He is likely to lead a coalition government with support from the UDP, HSPDP, PDF, and the BJP. He is expected to contest from one of two seats vacated by Congress’s Mukul Sangma, who won from Ampati and Songsak.
In 2013, NPP had secured nearly 9% of the total votes and bagged just two seats. This time, the vote share increased to over 20% and the party recorded wins across Meghalaya, not just from its stronghold, Garo Hills.
The party also registered its presence in Nagaland, winning two seats, and is said to have extended support to the NDPP-BJP alliance to form the next government.
Founded by P A Sangma
PA Sangma, one of the founders of the Nationalist Congress Party, a breakaway party of the Congress, had formed the NPP in 2012 and allied with the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
NPP won just two seats in the 2013 state polls. It also contested the Rajasthan assembly election that year and won four seats.
“Sangma wanted consolidation of tribal constituents and make NPP a tribal party with national presence. If he had lived longer, it would have materialised by now,” said Patricia Mukhim, editor of The Shillong Times.
The fledgling party suffered a setback with Sangma’s death in 2016. But his children, James, Conrad, the party’s national president, and Agatha have been able to expand NPP’s footprint in the past two years.
“Both James and Conrad have sharp political acumen. While James takes most political decisions, Conrad, who is younger, focuses on the management part,” Mukhim said.
An ally of the NDA at Centre, NPP is also part of the BJP-led North East Democratic Alliance — a conglomeration of parties in the northeast opposed to the Congress.
NPP fielded 20 candidates in the 2017 Manipur elections where four of them won. With no party securing majority, NPP’s support helped BJP form its first government in the state.
“NPP is emerging as an alternative to Congress, especially in tribal areas where the BJP has failed to penetrate. But in Manipur, all its 4 winners were from the Imphal Valley and not the hills,” said Pradip Phanjoubam, editor of Imphal Free Press.
Going Alone Paid Off
Despite its existing alliance with BJP, the party decided to contest election in Meghalaya and Nagaland independently — maybe as a strategic move not to be seen as too close to BJP’s Hindutva image in the two Christian-majority states.
BJP’s image had suffered a setback among a section of voters in Meghalaya over the Centre’s proposed beef-ban move. Church organisations in Nagaland had warned voters to be wary of the saffron outfit.
The move paid off and the results are for all to see.