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How the BJP helped Conrad Sangma defeat the Congress

Last updated on: March 05, 2018 10:13 IST

'Had the BJP gone along with the NPP, that would have eased the task of the Congress of winning more seats.'
'That was a great strategy of the BJP.'
'It helped the NPP win more seats than perhaps if it had gone as a pre-alliance partner with the BJP.'

Conrad Sangma, Meghalaya's next chief minister, campaigning during the 2013 assembly election. Photograph: Rajesh Karkera/Rediff.com
IMAGE: National People's Party leader Conrad Sangma, Meghalaya's next chief minister, campaigning during the 2013 assembly election. Photograph: Rajesh Karkera/Rediff.com

Dr R K Satapathy is an astute observer of politics in India's north east.

Dr Satapathy -- who has taught politics for 33 years in Mizoram and NEHU, Shillong -- has been involved in several electoral studies in the north eastern states. He led research scholars conducting the People's Pulse pre-poll survey in the Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura organised by the Hyderabad-based research organisation.

On Saturday, Dr Satapathy explained to Rediff.com's Archana Masih why the Bharatiya Janata Party vanquished the Communist Party of India-Marxist which had ruled Tripura for 25 years.

In the concluding part of the interview, Dr Satapathy predicts what may happen next in north east politics.

 

Is the BJP firmly in place in the north east?

The BJP did not have any grassroot organisation here. In spite of that, whatever they have achieved is a bonus for the party.

Even in Tripura, they did not have much of a grassroot organisation compared to the CPI-M.

The demographic composition of Tripura also helped the BJP to do so well, which is not the case in Meghalaya and Nagaland.

A large number of young people came to vote for the BJP in Tripura.

The demographic composition of Nagaland and Meghalaya is different from Tripura.

The religious composition, tribal-non tribal composition, plains-hilly areas -- all these demographics play an important role in Meghalaya and Nagaland.

The BJP is in a better position in the Christian-dominated states.

With governments in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Nagaland, Meghalaya and Tripura, the BJP is clearly on the ascent, in a region where it virtually had no presence earlier.

It will push the confidence of the BJP because it wants to be an all India party, with presence in all corners of the party.

What effect will this result have on the rest of India?

The BJP emerges as a pan-Indian political party. It has been able to elbow out the Congress party in all regions, but there needs to be a credible and effective Opposition in any democracy.

As a student of political science, I feel for a meaningful democracy there has to be an effective Opposition, an alternative voice.

In a country like ours, people should be watchdogs of democracy and political parties must be more effective.

The BJP will be in government no doubt, but it should not feel that it has a monopoly as far as politics is concerned. There should be healthy competition.

What is the future of the Left in India, which remains in power only in Kerala now?

Tripura was the last bastion actually.

In Kerala, almost every 5 years, the government alternates between a Congress-led or Left Front-led government.

People only voted for the Red party in Tripura. For the Red party, it is a very sad day.

The Left parties also need to think that dogmatic slogans will not help.

In West Bengal, the Trinamool has snatched all programmes of the Left.

The Left cannot go on talking about pro-poor, they need to think of other issues that will catch the people's imagination. I don't foresee any other state going the Red way.

What does it mean for the BJP in the states that will go to the polls this year?

These (Meghalaya, Nagaland, Tripura) are small states, but the BJP is going to face tough challenges in Karnataka, Rajasthan, Odisha. These wins in smaller states or their better performance will boost their morale.

The only state in the north east that remains with the Congress is Mizoram. What does it portend for the Congress that once dominated the region?

Mizoram has a dominant Christian population. The Mizo National Front is expected to give a good fight to the Congress. It won't be a walkover for the Congress in Mizoram.

Both Meghalaya and Nagaland are Christian majority states unlike Tripura. How is a party perceived as a Hindu party making a mark in these states?

BJP realised they could not go alone in Nagaland and Meghalaya.

Other regional political parties in Meghalaya were not keen to have a pre-poll electoral understanding with the BJP keeping in view the popular sentiment.

Though everyone knew at the national and regional level that the NPP (National People's Party) and BJP are partners, but because of electoral gains they fought alone.

Had it (the BJP) gone along with the NPP, that would have eased the task of the Congress of winning more seats.

That was a great strategy of the BJP.

It helped the NPP win more seats than if perhaps it had gone as a pre-alliance partner with the BJP.

Similarly in Nagaland, their calculation was because of Neiphiu Rio's popularity, the NDDP (Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party) will do better.

What is the future of the Congress in the north east?

At present, only Mizoram goes to the polls later this year.

The Congress is in perpetual decline in other states of the north east.

They have to reformulate strategy and think of their future course of action. Otherwise, it is very difficult.

All these years they thought they are the only acceptable party in the north east. That impression is punctured.

Archana Masih / Rediff.com