Northeast election results: BJP kicks off election year in style, Congress stares at a washout | The Financial Express

Northeast election results: BJP kicks off election year in style, Congress stares at a washout

The BJP is on track to form a government in Nagaland and Tripura and has initiated dialogue with the NPP for an alliance in Meghalaya.

Seven sitting MLAs, including Madal Virupakshappa, who was recently arrested on corruption charges, have been replaced with new candidates. (File Image)

The year 2023 has begun on a positive note for Bharatiya Janata Party, which is slated to comfortably form a government with its allies in Nagaland and Tripura and is already in talks with its former ally, the National People’s Party, to rejoin forces and come to power in Meghalaya as well. While the trends and results so far have given the BJP and its allies a clear majority in Tripura and Nagaland, the electorate in Meghalaya has delivered a fractured mandate with the NPP of Chief Minister Conrad Sangma emerging as the single-largest party, but a few seats short of a majority.

The likelihood of the BJP being part of a government in all three northeastern states that went to polls last month comes as a big shot in the arm for the BJP in the run-up to the Lok Sabha election a year from now. Crucially, it will also provide the BJP a big morale boost ahead of the Karnataka elections in May, and the Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Telangana and Mizoram towards the end of this year.

BJP leaders are crediting Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s focus on the Northeast for the party’s performance in the three states that went to polls. The results, they say, also add weight to the BJP’s development agenda. It also lays bare glaring holes in the Opposition’s accusations of the BJP being an anti-minority and anti-tribal party.

The more significant takeaway for the BJP, however, will be the absolute decimation that the Congress has faced in all three states. The party failed to improve its tally in Nagaland where it failed to open its account in 2018 as well. The grand old party’s move to ditch its differences and ally with the Left in Tripura has also failed to get the desired result — the alliance is currently ahead in 16 seats, with the Congress leading in three, up from zero seats it won in 2018.

In Meghalaya, where the verdict is still out who will form a government, the Congress is leading in 5 seats, down from the 20 seats it won in the elections held in 2018.

While the results today will allow the BJP to market its narrative of how voters continue to reject the Congress election after election, the party is set to face its own set of challenges as it heads into elections where it is in direct contest with the BJP. A win in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh in the polls in 2018 had allowed the Congress to build a narrative about how the electorate in the Hindi heartland had rejected the BJP.

Although the Congress failed to carry that momentum into the Lok Sabha elections in 2019, it now faces an existential crisis, if not more, as it heads into a direct face-off with the BJP in these states. Moreover, it is yet to settle the leadership question in states (Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh) where it is in power and is facing an internal crisis triggered by a power struggle like none other.

Moreover, the buzz around Opposition unity could gain ground with the near-decimation of the Opposition in most of the states where polls were held last month, possibly due to a growing realisation that regional leaders may not be effective against the BJP outside their own strongholds. The Congress’s repeated setbacks which continue to intensify are only adding to its problems.

Successive losses leave Congress little room for negotiations. And the party only has itself to blame.

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First published on: 02-03-2023 at 14:46 IST
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