Miniscule presence of INDIA parties in NE gives BJP a head start

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Guwahati/Agartala, August 13 (IANS) The Congress led Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) is yet to get any ally in the eight northeastern states even though the grand old party governed almost all the states for decades.

In contrast, as many as eleven parties from the eight northeastern states are the allies of the BJP led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) making it the dominant alliance in the region with a total of 25 Lok Sabha seats and 498 assembly seats in eight states.

Of the 498 MLAs in eight states, the Congress has only 48 members (9.63 per cent) while the BJP has 183 members (36.74 per cent).

Of the 25 Lok Sabha seats, 14 are currently with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) while the Congress has four and seven seats are held by state parties and Independents.

The Assam’s 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.

Of the 25 Lok Sabha seats, Assam has 14 parliamentary constituencies, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Tripura have two seats each, Mizoram, Nagaland and Sikkim have one seat each.
The Congress after governing most of the northeastern states for many decades lost Assam in 2016 and Manipur to the BJP in 2017. In 2018 it was defeated in Meghalaya by the NPP led alliance and in the same year in Mizoram by the MNF.  

With the Congress slipping in its stronghold, the eight northeastern states are now dominated by the BJP and the state parties, which are indispensable for the national parties to govern the region.

The saffron party in alliance with the other parties is now running governments in Assam (since 2016), Arunachal Pradesh (since 2016), Manipur (since 2017) and Tripura (since 2018).

Meghalaya’s NPP, Nagaland’s NDPP, Mizoram’s MNF and Sikkim’s SKM with a solid political base are governing their respective states and are allies of the BJP led NDA.

The NPP, headed by Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma, however, has a substantial base in Manipur, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and a reasonable number of MLAs in these three northeastern states besides Meghalaya, where the party is dominating the Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) government.

In the NDA meeting held on July 18 in New Delhi, as many as eleven parties from the eight northeastern states took part.    

The parties include, NPP, NDPP, MNF, SKM, Indigenous People's Front of Tripura, Naga People's Front, Asom Gana Parishad, United People's Party Liberal, Kuki People's Alliance, United Democratic Party, Hill State People's Democratic Party.

After attending the NDA meeting in New Delhi, the top leaders of these parties expressed the confidence that the BJP-led NDA would do well in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls in the northeast.

On the other hand, no party from the northeastern states took part in the two-day meeting of the opposition alliance -- Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) – in Bengaluru.

The parties, which have a substantial base in the northeastern states and are not part of either  grouping, NDA and INDIA, are Assam’s All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), Tripura’s Tipra Motha Party (TMP), Mizoram’s Zoram People's Movement (ZPM) and Manipur People’s Party (MPP).  

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 in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

The AIUDF has 15 members in the 126-member Assam assembly.

The ZPM with six MLAs in the 40-member Mizoram assembly is the main opposition party in that state.

Founded in 1968, the MPP, which is considered one of the oldest regional parties in India, is currently weakened due to many reasons including factional feud. It has formed governments in Manipur in three different regimes in 1972-73, 1974 and 1990-1992.

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.

Highlighting the ‘Greater Tipraland State’ demand and 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 in the February assembly polls and is now the main stakeholder of the vote share of tribals, who always played a vital role in the electoral politics of Tripura.

Before next year’s parliamentary poll, eying the 14 Lok Sabha seats in Assam, the Congress like its previous efforts, has initiated moves to form a 'Mahagathbandhan' (grand alliance) with the like-minded smaller and state parties.

The Congress held a meeting of 11 opposition parties excluding the AIUDF, Aam Aadmi Party and Trinamool Congress in Guwahati recently.

Assam Congress president Bhupen Bora, who called the meeting, had said that they would check the division of votes in next year’s Lok Sabha polls in Assam as the BJP always gets electoral mileage due to the division of votes among the non-BJP parties.

In the past nine years, many prominent leaders in the northeast left the Congress, including Himanta Biswa Sarma, Sushmita Dev, Ripun Bora, Pijush Hazarika, Jayanta Mallabaruah, Pallab Lochan Das (Assam), Manik Saha and Ratan Lal Nath (Tripura), N. Biren Singh (Manipur), Pema Khandu (Arunachal Pradesh), Neiphiu Rio (Nagaland), and Mukul Sangma and Ampareen Lyngdoh (Meghalaya), dealing a severe blow to the party.

The chief ministers of five northeastern states -- Himanta Biswa Sarma (Assam), Manik Saha (Tripura), N. Biren Singh (Manipur), Pema Khandu (Arunachal Pradesh), and Neiphiu Rio (Nagaland) -- are all former Congress leaders.