Achieved target of making northeast ‘Congress-free’, says BJP’s Sarma
The target of making the country’s northeastern region “Congress-Mukt (free)” is complete with the Mizo National Front (MNF)’s victory in Mizoram, according to Bharatiya Janata Party-(BJP) led North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) convener Himanta Biswa Sarma.
The BJP, which has emerged as a major political force in the northeast in the last two years, formed NEDA as an umbrella group of non-Congress parties in the region after its victory in the 2016 Assam assembly elections. From being a marginal player, the BJP has now since formed governments in four of the region’s eight states – Tripura, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, and Manipur, and is part of the ruling coalitions in Meghalaya and Nagaland.
“When we formed… NEDA two and a half years back, the idea was to have BJP-friendly governments in all states. With the Mizoram results, we have achieved that 100%,” said Sarma, who is BJP’s Mizoram election in-charge and an Assam minister.
The MNF swept the polls in Mizoram winning 26 seats in the 40-member state assembly. The Congress managed just five seats and lost its last stronghold in the region.
Sarma called the BJP’s performance in Mizoram “impactful”. He said the MNF, which is a part of the NEDA, must decide whether the party’s lone lawmaker, B D Chakma, will join the new government. “We are happy with the MNF’s success. We will support MNF.”
Chakma, who had contested the last election on a Congress ticket, won from South Mizoram’s Tuichwang. He is the first BJP’s first MLA in Christian-majority Mizoram, where the party had been fighting elections unsuccessfully since 1993.
“Since he [Chakma] is from a minority community, the decision on whether he will join the government or not will depend on (former Mizoram chief minister and MNF leader) Zoramthanga and be based upon the social and political complexities of Mizoram,’’ said Sarma.
The lone BJP lawmaker’s Chakma community is spread across northeastern states like Mizoram. The Chakmas, who are mostly Buddhist, had migrated to India from erstwhile East Pakistan (now Bangladesh)’s Chittagong Hill Tracts in the 1960s. There has been a history of conflict between Mizos and Chakmas in the Christian-dominated Mizoram.
Apart from Chakma’s victory, Sarma said the BJP has managed to make an impact across the state. “From just over 2,000 votes in the last polls all over the state to more than 3,000 votes in some constituencies is a giant leap,” Sarma said. He said the BJP candidates have managed close second or third positions in several constituencies.
Sarma said the BJP has been able to make inroads in terms of its organisational reach and called it “not a small achievement”
He also said the MNF will support the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in the Lok Sabha polls. “Zoramthanga has said multiple times that he will support the NDA at the Centre. There is no confusion on that,” Sarma said.
However, the Congress made light of the BJP’s claims.
“It’s a big achievement for the BJP that they have opened their account. But they will not be able to go beyond this,” state Congress spokesperson Lallianchhunga said. “Congress may not have been able to win a straight third term but we will provide a principled opposition. MNF will not have a honeymoon,” he said.