Can Northeast elections alter the battle for Delhi in 2024?

Northeast election results 2023: A victory for the BJP will add heft to Modi’s pro-development narrative.

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The Bharatiya Janata Party under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is betting big on a victory in the three northeastern states of Tripura, Meghalaya and Nagaland that went to polls recently. The fact that the BJP fielded its top leadership, including the PM and Home minister Amit Shah, among others in the campaign hustings shows the importance the BJP has given to these elections. So has Mamata Banerjee of Trinamool Congress and Mallikarjun Kharge of the Congress.

And it isn’t without reason. The elections to the three states of the Northeast hold the potential to change the face of the elections approaching in 2024. It is more about arithmetic for the BJP, while a battle of perception for the Opposition parties.

A win for the BJP in these states — the exit polls have predicted a BJP win in two of the three states —  will further solidify its base in the Northeast, where it has gained significantly in the last 10 years. Most exit polls have predicted victories for the BJP in Tripura and the BJP-Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party alliance in Nagaland, the National People’s Party (NPP) is tipped to have an edge over others in Meghalaya.

The push that a win will give to Modi’s political narrative of development is perhaps the biggest advantage the BJP sees ahead of the Lok Sabha elections in 2024. The Prime Minister has claimed time and again that it is committed to develop the Northeast and does not see the region “as an ATM-like Congress did”. A good performance will also add credibility to the BJP’s narrative of bringing peace and stability to the once restive region.

A loss, however, could significantly dent this perception that the BJP has carefully cultivated in the Northeast over the years. Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura cumulatively account for five of the 543 Lok Sabha seats. A slip in any of these seats will upset the BJP and its allies who control four of these five seats. But that isn’t the only reason why BJP is desperate for power in these states.

Besides the three states where results are being announced today, the BJP-led NDA holds 9 of the 12 Lok Sabha seats in Assam and both seats in Arunachal Pradesh. Together, the Northeast forms a significant chunk for the BJP which can potentially make or break the saffron party’s chances in a tight contest.

For the Opposition, particularly the Congress, Left and the Trinamool Congress, the stakes are possibly much higher. For the Congress-Left alliance, a loss in Tripura would come as the people’s rejection despite both parties ditching their differences to join hands and unitedly take on the BJP. In Meghalaya, a loss for Mamata’s TMC would establish that it lacks the ability to pull votes outside West Bengal despite the CM undertaking an aggressive campaign in the state.

On the flip side, it will be interesting to see if a strengthened BJP and a less-than-average performance by the Opposition, could boost the prospects of Opposition unity ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. 

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First published on: 02-03-2023 at 07:03 IST
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