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N-East at Centre: THE BIG CHANGE, By Dr.S.Saraswathi, 9 March, 2018 Print E-mail

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New Delhi, 9 March 2018

N-East at Centre


By Dr.S.Saraswathi

(Former Director,  ICSSR, New Delhi)


“In Vastu Shastra, it is said that the North-East of a house is at the centre.  Things are organized keeping North-East in mind.  Similarly, our North-East will lead the country’s development”, said Prime Minister Modi after  declaration of election results in  three States of that region.  He termed  this as an  “ideological victory” and not just an “electoral victory”.


The  big change in the political landscape effected through the ballot box in three North Eastern States --- Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura --- must facilitate the construction of the nation with central importance to the North-East taking a cue from the Vastu Shastra. Modi has confirmed that the Centre would give priority to their development.


Details  show that honoring the dictates of the Shastra  must follow at once  as they  do not indicate a  “right about turn” of the voters by conviction,  but a  turn made possible  with  unmatched electoral skill perfected by the BJP.   


 In Meghalaya, the Congress was the ruling Party for the last 10 years and  this time,  it  emerged as the biggest Party, but did not secure a  majority to form the  Government.  The pre-poll alliance of the BJP with the  NPP ( National People’s Party )  and   UDP  (United Democratic Party)  under the name  North-East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) won 27 seats  against Congress’s 21 which nullified the claim of the largest Party to be called first to form the Government.


The Congress also miserably failed  as in Manipur  last year  to lead a post-poll alliance to garner majority support  to form the Government .  Its failure coupled with BJP’s ability to forge an alliance in lightening speed  after winning just two seats  opened the door for  the NDA Government.


 Anti-BJP forces may cry “foul, foul” and dub this as an extension of the “Manipur formula”. But the reality seems to be the preference of small regional Parties in the North-East at present to fall in the basket of the BJP and not the Congress.  It places a heavy responsibility on the BJP to merge the North-East in mainstream  politics and economics.


Political practitioners are already visualizing a future for this formula in bigger States also to be successfully played by the BJP. Say, in Tamil Nadu and Kerala where its hopes to stand on its own legs are bleak, in fact nil.


Replacement of the Leftist  CPI(M) which was in power in Tripura for about 25 years  with the  Rightist  BJP which  got no  seats in 2013 and now  won 43 seats out of 60  in alliance with the IPFT (Indigenous People’s  Front Tripura)   is the biggest surprise in this election  series.   


The rout of the CPI(M) is a big blow to the Party and is likely to  widen  internal differences.  Sure, it is a testing period for the two Communist Parties.  They have no future in Parliamentary life at sight without useful allies;  and with allies of various shades, they will face ideological decline and lose the reason for existence which is worse than loss of seats.


From the status of being the main Opposition Party in Nagaland with 8 seats and Tripura with 10 seats, its exit from the Assembly is dramatic for the Congress.  Its vote share drastically declined from 24.9% to 2.1% in Nagaland and from 36.5% to 1.8% in Tripura which reflects its   decline in popularity rather than the mischief of electoral arithmetic.   The Party has to worry about this whether the nation is worried or not.


The  descent  is glaring when considered side by side with the ascent of  vote share of the BJP-IPFT (Indigenous People’s Front Tripura)  from  a paltry  2%  in 2013 to 50.5% in 2018 and   BJP’s individual share  of votes  from 1.54% to 43%  and seats   from 0 to 35 in Tripura.   


The IPFT increased its vote share in the same period from 0.46% to 7.5% and from losing deposits of all its 17 candidates in 2013 rose to win 8 of the 9 seats it contested in 2018.  These gains are from the Congress. 


 Surely, there is a definite tidal wave sweeping across the country and great expectations are bound to rise among common people.   They must be met if the nation must be spared the wrath of disappointment of the masses which does not take much time to burst out.  U-turn of voters is common. The North-East must be brought  to  the centre of India’s growth.


It requires a mental make-up to accept electoral defeat in sportsmanlike style as suggested by NaMo and a frame of mind to join hands with the winner to work for the good of the nation once the electoral fight is over. This is where political Parties in India totally fail.  They do not realize that Parliamentary “opposition” is part of governance responsible to provide constructive cooperation including criticism and not destructive blockages.


 For, politics has now become a career to advance in power and positions and not an opportunity to serve the people.  Electoral defeats give rise to physical fights within the legislatures, blockage of parliament function, criticism of other Parties and leaders  even  in a  foreign land  and so on.     


The seven States of the North-East, known as “seven sisters” comprising Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura comprise 7.98% of the total area of the country and 3.91% of the total population.  All these States have international borders stretching to 5,500 km but only 21 km long corridor known as “Siliguri Neck” connecting the region with the rest of India. 


With China on the north, Bangladesh on south-west, Myanmar on the east and Bhutan on north-west its strategic significance is obvious. This very fact enhances the responsibility of the Union Government to pay special attention to the growth and development of this region and its firm integration with the rest of the country physically and emotionally. 


Besides a well-oiled election propaganda machinery, the BJP has a superior organizational set up.  In the communist stronghold of Tripura, where the BJP entered the fray without any positive indication of victory, it spent a good deal of attention to organization of campaigning.  Campaign committees were formed from booth level to constituency level and were integrated.


The smallness of the three States together having only 180 seats is no consideration to bestowing less attention for a Party keen on national development.  And States with international borders are sensitive areas deserving extra attention.


The strategy of forming a fast alliance with a regional Party has had been an old one followed by the Congress many times.  At one stage, Indira Gandhi refrained from contesting for the Tamil Nadu Assembly in return for DMK giving up all Parliamentary seats.   The deal worked.


Federalism in India is stretching to political Parties.  A national Party may become the leader in a State with a few seats in the Assembly and take a lead in providing good governance in alliance with  regional Parties provided they are  bound together with common ideals and programmes and  a sense of national oneness.   The tie is important. ---- INFA .


(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)



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