The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party managed to notch up a morale-boosting win on its 'Mission Northeast' on Thursday by retaining Tripura emphatically, despite anti-incumbency and newcomer Tipra Motha playing spoilers to its party, while also piggy-backing to power in Nagaland on Neiphiu Rio-led NDPP's shoulder.
In Meghalaya, it was poised to be part of the ruling dispensation again as a junior partner, given that Chief Minister Conrad Sangma's NPP has fallen short of majority while winning the lion's share of 26 seats in the 60-member assembly.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, speaking after the declaration of results, credited BJP's consistent wins in states, including the northeast, "to a triveni (triumvirate) of work and work culture" of its governments and its workers' commitment to service.
For the BJP, however, the wins as junior partners in the hills of Nagaland and Meghalaya will be good for optics and for crowing about the demise of the Congress, which was reduced to just five and zero seats respectively in the two states which it ruled not too long ago, but the real 'cream of the crop' was Tripura.
The BJP-IPFT alliance retained the state winning 33 seats in the 60-member assembly on Thursday, 10 less than the figure in 2018, but nevertheless a clear majority which will allow it to rule for five years without seeking help from the newcomer Tipra Motha, which bagged an enviable 13 seats.
The new party formed two years back by a scion of the state's former princely family ate into the tribal votes of both the Left-Congress alliance, which secured 14 seats, as well as that of the BJP-IPFT alliance.
The Trinamool Congress performed poorly winning none of the 28 seats it contested. Its vote share (0.88 per cent) came to less than that of those who stamped None-Of-The-Above (NOTA).
The saffron party contested in 55 seats and won 32, three less than what it bagged in 2018. While the IPFT was reduced to just one seat, down from eight five years back.
The Communist Party of India-Marxist, which lost power in 2018 after ruling the northeastern state for 25 years, won just 11 seats this time round, down from 16 which it secured five years back.
Fielding candidates in 13 constituencies, the Congress won three, though it bagged a vote share of 8.56 per cent.
"The BJP's victory was expected, We were eagerly waiting for it. Our responsibility has been increased with the decisive mandate," said Chief Minister Manik Saha who took over the job last year when the BJP decided on a brand renewal exercise by replacing the unpopular Biplab Kumar Deb.
However, for the BJP, the worrying factor was the ’idea of opposition unity' which seems to have been strengthened in Tripura where Congressmen and CPI-M workers who at one time had fought pitched battles with each other worked together and managed to cobble up a respectable opposition.
The model has been replicated in Bengal's Sagardighi where the Congress registered a victory against the ruling Trinamool Congress on Thursday because of the Left's support.
The BJP's pointsman in the northeast, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, remained in touch with Sangma for the alliance in Meghalaya.
The BJP's two seats and the money and influence that New Delhi can help any state government with, is expected to help seal the deal where the old alliance of NPP with United Democratic Party, which has 11 seats, and the saffron party will be revived, according to political pundits.
Party spokesperson Ampareen Lyngdoh admitted as much, stating there is a "high possibility" that earlier alliance partners will come together, as the ruling party "will have to seek the support of others" to return to power for the second time in a row. BJP's Meghalaya chief Ernest Mawrie, too, confirmed that the party would "submit a letter of support to NPP tonight after a meeting of BJP".
The tie-up comes despite the BJP having accused the Sangma government of being the country's "most corrupt" ruling party and despite the saffron camp earning the tag of a Hindutva party in the Christian-dominated state. That tag also did not seem to come in its way to victory in Nagaland in alliance with NPP where BJP retained its seat share.
Prime Minister Modi, too, in his post-result comments pointed out, "Minorities were made fearful about BJP for years but people of Goa and now from northeast have exposed the propaganda."
In Nagaland, the real victor was the state's political stalwart and NDPP supremo Neiphiu Rio, who is set to assume office as chief minister for a fifth term after registering a convincing win for his party and its ally, the BJP.
The Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) won 21 seats while its alliance partner got 12 seats, the EC said. Together, the two parties have secured 33 seats in the 60-member Nagaland assembly.
The septuagenarian leader has, with this victory, broken the record of veteran leader S C Jamir, who helmed the northeastern state thrice.
Last time round the alliance won 30 seats -- 18 by the regional party and 12 by the saffron party -- and formed the government with the support of two NPP MLAs, one from JD-U and an Independent MLA, ending the 15-year reign of NPF in the state.
Talking to reporters, Rio said, "Let us pursue with sincerity the objective of fulfilling our goals and visions for the state."