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Lok Sabha elections 2019: Lotus blooms in Northeast

The Northeast has turned into a bastion of the BJP. In 2014, BJP won eight seats (seven in Assam and one in Arunachal Pradesh) and its allies won two.

lok sabha elections Updated: May 24, 2019 04:49 IST
Utpal Parashar
Utpal Parashar
Lotus blooms in Northeast,Northeast,Lok Sabha elections 2019
BJP supporters celebrate the victory of party candidates in Lok Sabha elections by playing with colors in Agartala on Thursday.(ANI)

In January and February, when protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, which proposed Indian citizenship for minorities from the Muslim-majority nations of Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, raged in Assam and several other states in the North-east, it seemed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) would feel their impact in the Lok Sabha polls.

The protests, which stemmed from concerns that the legislation could turn indigenous communities into minorities, forced the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) not to table the Bill in the Rajya Sabha.

On Thursday, trends/wins in 25 seats of the region showed anger against CAB didn’t affect the BJP one bit. The BJP and its allies are leading in 17 seats.

The Northeast has turned into a bastion of the BJP. In 2014, BJP won eight seats (seven in Assam and one in Arunachal Pradesh) and its allies won two.

In Assam, BJP was leading or had won in nine of the 10 seats (out of a total of 14) it contested. “Instead of losing, CAB consolidated our votes. Attempts by Congress to polarise voters on the basis of the legislation led to counter-polarisation, which worked in our favour,” Assam minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said.

In Arunachal Pradesh, the party candidates, Union minister Kiren Rijiju and BJP state chief Tapir Gao, looked set to win the seats. In Tripura, BJP candidates Rebati Tripura (Tripura East) and Pratima Bhowmik (Tripura West) won seats that have been Communist bastions since 1996.

In Meghalaya, NDA ally, the ruling National People’s Party’s candidate Agatha Sangma was set to defeat Congress candidate and former chief minister Mukul Sangma in the Tura seat. In Shillong, sitting Congress MP Vincent Pala was set to win.

In Manipur, BJP candidate Rajkumar Ranjan Singh was leading in the Inner Manipur seat while Naga People’s Front (NPF) candidate LS Pfoze was ahead in the Outer Manipur seat. While NPF is not on good terms with BJP in Nagaland, the regional party’s Manipur unit is a coalition partner of the BJP-led government in the state.

“There is no single factor for BJP’s stellar show in the Northeast. The most important factor was PM Narendra Modi himself as people saw him as a decisive and strong leader,” said Nani Gopal Mahanta, a political expert and registrar in-charge of Gauhati University. “In Assam, CAB didn’t matter at all and polarisation of voters due to BJP’s Hindutva in indigenous coating helped the saffron party. Development projects in the region and schemes which provided toilets and health benefits, among other things, also helped,” he added.

In Nagaland, former chief minister and Congress candidate KL Chisi was losing to Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party candidate and sitting MP Tokheho Yepthomi in the lone Lok Sabha seat. In Mizoram, ruling Mizo National Front candidate C Lalrosanga was leading in the only seat. The party is a part of the NDA.

Congress, the dominant party in the Northeast until the BJP’s emergence a few years ago, has been pushed to a corner in the region too. The party, which won eight seats in 2014, may have to be content with four this time. “The counting process is still underway and we are confident of winning 4-5 seats in Assam,” said senior Congress leader and leader of the opposition in the state assembly, Debabrata Saikia.

(inputs from Sadiq NaqvI)

First Published: May 24, 2019 04:49 IST

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