Ethnic faultlines in Manipur, Tripura spoil BJP's party in north-east

Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren Singh. (IANS Photo)

Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren Singh. (IANS Photo)

Agartala, June 24 (IANS) Even as the BJP now has some electoral advantage in the northeastern region ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, internal feuds in the party, anti-incumbency and the ongoing ethnic troubles in Manipur and its after effects in the neighbouring states would be hurdles for the saffron party before the parliamentary polls.

Though the internal rifts are not so visible in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and a few other northeastern states, disputes and differences of opinion are evident in Tripura and Manipur.

Before the ethnic violence began in Manipur on May 3, expressing their resentment against Chief Minister N. Biren Singh between April 13 and April 24 four BJP MLAs -- Thokchom Radheysham, Karam Shyam, Raghumani Singh and Paonam Brojen Singh -- quit their government posts.

The four BJP legislators were, respectively, the Chief Minister's advisor, and Chairman of the Manipur State Tourism Development Corporation, the Manipur Renewable Energy Development Agency and the Manipur Development Society. All the four MLAs claimed that they were not given due responsibility, funds and authority to function in their posts.

Biren Singh, however, had claimed that there are no differences of opinion and resentment among the legislators.

The issue was discussed in an "inconclusive" party meeting on April 27 in Imphal. The BJP's northeast coordinator and national spokesperson Sambit Patra and state BJP president A. Sharda Devi were present at the meeting.

According to the political analysts, the ongoing ethnic violence, which broke out on May 3 and has so far claimed over 120 lives, injured over 400 people of different communities and displaced over 65,000 people besides destroying a large number of properties and vehicles, is likely to affect the electoral prospects of the ruling BJP in Manipur.

Amidst the ethnic violence, a section of BJP leaders and MLAs have been demanding replacement of Biren Singh as the Chief Minister. However, leaders and legislators close to the Chief Minister claimed that his (Biren Singh) efforts to curb the drug menace, illegal trade in drugs from Myanmar, illicit poppy cultivation and infiltration from across the border annoyed unscrupulous people and they are conspiring against him.

In Tripura, political pundits observed that there were open differences among former Tripura Chief Minister and sitting Rajya Sabha member Biplab Kumar Deb, Union Minister Pratima Bhowmik, Chief Minister Manik Saha and others.

Deb and Bhowmik were hardly seen sharing the platforms at party meetings and various organisational and government functions and meetings.

They were not seen at any of the sessions of the two-day (April 3-4) Science-20 conference, under India's G20 presidency, held in Tripura capital Agartala.

Last month, former Tripura Chief Minister Deb alleged that some people from outside were interfering in the party's internal matters in Tripura.

When asked what he meant by 'outsiders' interfering in the affairs of the party, he said: "You understand the details of external interference. Everyone understands why the party organisation is hampered. I am not a bureaucrat or an officer. When such outside interference happens, it's my duty to present these at the right place."

Deb, who on May 14 last year resigned from the Chief Minister's post following the direction of the BJP's central leaders, had said, "The BJP government is in power for a second term in Tripura and the party had freed the state from the communists rule, I have tried to do my job with maximum effort."

Though Deb took part in the February assembly election campaign, he was not seen in the major events organised by the BJP government and the party after Manik Saha became Chief Minister for the second time on March 8 this year.

Keeping in mind next year's Lok Sabha elections, the BJP held a "crucial meeting" in Guwahati in the first week of April to chalk out strategies to win all the 25 parliamentary seats in the eight northeastern states, including Sikkim.

Tripura state BJP president Rajib Bhattacharjee said that the central leaders of the party are keen to win all the 25 Lok Sabha seats.

"State unit presidents of all the northeastern states and other senior leaders were present at the important meeting in Guwahati. It was discussed and decided that the booths of all the parliamentary constituencies would be further strengthened to obtain full electoral mileage," Bhattacharjee told IANS.

BJP general secretary (organisation) Shiv Prakash, the party's northeast coordinator and national spokesperson Sambit Patra, national secretary Asha Lakra, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma among other leaders were present at the meeting.

Of these 25 Lok Sabha seats, 14 are currently with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) while the Congress has four.

The All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) in Assam, Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) in Nagaland, Mizo National Front (MNF) in Mizoram, National People's Party (NPP) in Meghalaya, Naga People's Front (NPF) in Manipur, Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM) in Sikkim and an Independent (Naba Kumar Sarania) in Assam have one seat each.

The NDPP, MNF, NPP, NPF and SKM are the allies of the BJP led National Democratic Alliance.

Assam has 14 seats, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Tripura have two seats each, Mizoram, Nagaland and Sikkim have one seat each.

Even as the BJP remains in an advantageous position by virtue of running the governments in four out of the eight states in the northeastern region, the regional parties are expected to play a significant role in next year's Lok Sabha elections.

The All India United Democratic Front in Assam and the tribal-based Tipra Motha Party in Tripura are currently not with the BJP or the Congress.

The Muslim based party AIUDF, headed by Lok Sabha MP Badruddin Ajmal and former royal scion Pradyot Bikram Manikya Deb Barman led TMP have a strong base in their respective areas and might pose a challenge to both the BJP and the Congress.

Though the BJP is ruling Tripura, the political situation in the state is a little different with the TMP securing 13 seats in the 60-member state Assembly that went to the polls in February, emerging as the second largest party after the BJP, which got 32 seats, down by four seats from its 2018 tally.

Throwing a challenge to all the national parties -- BJP, CPI(M), Congress and Trinamool Congress -- the TMP, the first tribal-based party in Tripura since 1952, emerged as the principal opposition in the state and is now the main stakeholder of the vote share of tribals, who constitute one-third of Tripura's four million population.

The TMP, after capturing the politically important Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC) in April 2021, has been demanding elevation of the areas of the autonomous body by granting a 'Greater Tipraland State' or a separate state status under Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution.