North-east elections: BJP topples Manik Sarkar-led Left in Tripura, gains in Nagaland with new ally; Meghalaya hangs in balance
The BJP got its 15th chief minister after it defeated the Left in its Tripura citadel when the results for the latest assembly elections were tallied on Saturday. The saffron party was also set to form the government in Nagaland and remained in the reckoning for power in Meghalaya.india Updated: Mar 04, 2018 07:18 IST
Continuing its post-2014 winning spree, and reinforcing its claim of being a truly ‘national party’, the BJP swept to victory in Tripura, defeating an entrenched Left Front government, and ensured India would now have 15 chief ministers from the party. “From Kohima to Kutch, our party is in power,” BJP president Amit Shah said in a press conference on Saturday.
The party was also all set to form the government with an ally in Nagaland, and despite its low numbers, remained in the game for power in Meghalaya. Saturday’s outcome comes as a huge morale-booster for the party after a close shave in Gujarat and electoral setbacks in Rajasthan bypolls.
Delighted at the victory, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called the Tripura election an ‘epoch-making one’, and a journey from ‘shunya’ (zero) to ‘shikhar’ (peak). A Tripura win, he had told BJP leaders last week, would be an ideological victory and the celebrations should be even more grand than that of UP win.
In 2013, the BJP had forfeited its deposit in 49 of the 50 seats it contested, bagging less than two percent of the vote. This time around, it swept to a comfortable majority winning 43 seats with an ally, ousting the long-serving Communist Chief Minister of the state, Manik Sarkar. Biplab Deb, a young BJP leader with a background in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), is expected to be the state’s new CM.
The BJP’s success came on the back of anti-incumbency against CPM, with a range of groups unhappy with Sarkar – government employees, young students, job aspirants, tribals. The party, led by general secretary Ram Madhav and state in charge Sunil Deodhar, built a robust organisation, stitched alliances, imported leaders from other parties, occupied the entire opposition space vacated by Congress and snatched away even old Left loyalists.
The BJP’s strategy of switching from Nagaland’s dominant regional party, Naga People’s Front, and allying with former CM Neiphiu Rio-led new formation, Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP), seemed to have paid off. Madhav tweeted on Saturday evening, “NDPP BJP Alliance has secured 30 seats. With the support of one independent, we are comfortably placed to form the government.”
The game however remained widely open in Meghalaya. Congress, led by Mukul Sangma, emerged as the single-largest party with 21 seats. But while they fought polls separately, National People’s Party, along with BJP, too have 21 MLAs. The key is now in the hands of smaller regional forces. The Congress deployed a high-powered team, of Ahmed Patel, Kamal Nath, and Mukul Wasnik, to ensure that the party is able to form the government. Nath said that they would stake claim to form the next government.
But BJP has let its ambition known too. Party president Shah said in Delhi, “It is a hung assembly. Congress has not got a majority. The mandate is against them.” He however rejected any suggestion the party would engage in horse-trading. It has deployed the Assam strongman and a key Northeast strategist, Himanta Biswa Sarma, to stitch up alliances.