Ram Madhav, Himanta Biswa, Kiren Rijiju, Sunil Deodhar: Leaders who steered BJP towards victory in Tripura, Nagaland elections
Ram Madhav’s strong networking skills, Himanta Biswa’s alliance-building, Kiren Rijiju being the flag-bearer of Hindutva ideology in northeast and Sunil Deodhar’s poll management led BJP demolish Left’s 25-year rule in Tripura and increase its footprint in Nagaland.india Updated: Mar 04, 2018 07:17 IST
The BJP on Saturday won big in the Left citadel of Tripura, winning two-thirds majority with ally IPFT and ending 25 years of uninterrupted rule of CPI(M) in the state.
The saffron party, which did not even have a single councillor in all of Tripura, had secured less than two per cent votes in the 2013 state assembly polls.
In Nagaland, though the BJP-NDPP alliance failed to secure a majority as polls threw up a hung assembly, the party looks set to form a government with the backing of allies.
Here are the BJP leaders who facilitated the party’s performance in the Northeast:
Designation: General secretary, BJP, and in charge, north east
Role: A key networker capable of straddling territories that would seem disparate even to politicians with a penchant for alliances, Ram Madhav, 53, was busy driving the youth connect of the BJP’s ideological parent, the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh, in 2014. He was also a key bridge between the Sangh and BJP’s election machine. That is when he was sent by the Sangh to work in the party, shortly after it had won the general election with an absolute majority.
As the man in charge of the Sangh’s publicity and the head of its key publications, Madhav had repackaged the RSS’s message for young people without diluting its ideological content. He brought in a flexibility (weekend shakhas, online enrolment) aimed at attracting the young. In the BJP, Madhav’s tech-savvy and modern election management style — which relies on in-depth surveys and big data — has fit in well with the party’s attempt to modernise itself.
As the man responsible for forging the North East Democratic Alliance, a grouping of BJP and NDA partners from the Northeast, he has managed to repackage what the party represents in the region. It is no longer seen as a cowbelt party run only by north Indians. Rather, it is perceived as a political force that is fast filling up the space vacated by the Congress. At the same time, it is seen as a party with an appetite for striking key alliances with local political formations. As a result, the BJP has increased its electoral footprint in all northeastern states where it contested.
Himanta Biswa Sarma
Designation: Minister for finance, health and education, Assam
Role: When former Assam Congress heavyweight, Himanta Biswa Sarma, left the then ruling party and its state government in August 2015 for the BJP, the saffron party’s expansion plan in the northeast got a major fillip.
BJP leaders knew they were not just winning over an Assam leader capable of helping the party win power in the largest state in the region, but a resourceful alliance-builder with an extensive network of political contacts in significant local parties across different states. Sarma, 49, holds the important portfolios of health, education and finance in the Sarbananda Sonowal government, but is clearly the face of the BJP in the entire northeast.
The results in Tripura — where Sarma as state in charge helped the BJP emerge from the position of a non-player to the main challenger to Manik Sarkar’s well entrenched CPI(M) government after he got the entire Tripura unit of the Congress to merge with the BJP — bear witness to Sarma’s efforts. The alliance he helped forge with the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura helped the party surge past the CPI(M).
And his next assignment is proof of how the party has come to rely on him: While the party cadre celebrated the saffron triumph in Agartala, Sarma was rushed to Shillong where some brisk politicking is expected with no party reaching the majority mark of 30.
Designation: Minister of state, home affairs
Role: As the minister of state for home affairs at the Centre, Kiren Rijiju is considered the face of the northeast in the Narendra Modi government. For someone who studied in Delhi for his graduation and then became a lawyer, Rijiju plays the bridge between the capital and his home state, Arunachal Pradesh. As Nagaland in charge for his party, he pitched for linking the prosperity of the state with peace.
Much before Himanta Biswa Sarma had joined the BJP, it was Rijiju who had taken it upon himself to help the BJP expand its footprint in the northeast after it won the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. At one point, the Congress even accused him of trying to destabilise “democratically elected” governments in the northeast.
In 2009, after he lost as the BJP’s candidate from Arunachal West, he quit the party to join the Congress. He returned two years later, when Nitin Gadkari took over as the party chief.
Designation: In charge of BJP in Tripura
Role: A former RSS full-timer, 52-year old Sunil Deodhar is being credited for anchoring the BJP’s electoral campaign in the Left bastion of Tripura. Deodhar’s poll management skills during the campaign in Varanasi, the Prime Minister’s constituency, which he was responsible for during the 2014 general elections, was the reason why party president Amit Shah picked him for the job.
In Tripura, which the BJP won convincingly, Deodhar dovetailed the traditional campaigning style of the RSS-BJP — strengthening the cadre and intensifying outreach through door-to-door campaigns — with the modern canvassing mediums of social media.
In a state that had been ruled by the CPI(M) for a quarter of a century, the BJP projected itself as the alternative that would change the fate of the state and its people.