The grand old party of India which has been inviolably strong over the last decade is turning out to be a house of cards. The continuing plummet of the Congress party from its pan-Indian image indisputably began with the rise of Modi wave. As regards the BJP, barring some reverses over the last two years since it came to power at the centre, its electoral fortune has been on the rise. It has been making inroads into states and regions where it never managed to get a toehold in the past. With its Hinduvta ideology in the forefront, the saffron party had once lost its political mandate in our secular nation. The sudden turn of its political kismet is perhaps the result of various corrective steps including course corrections, hard work of its foot soldiers and anti-incumbency factor working against the opposition effectuated, most probably, by its involvement in most infamous scams.
The 2017 assembly elections, currently underway in five states, are again a litmus test for the right-wing party ahead of the 2019 general election. The outcomes of these state elections are crucial given the fact that they hold the key to increasing BJP’s strength in the upper house of parliament which would eventually translate into a rather easy passage for certain legislative reforms as well as understanding of the mood of the people post Modi’s historic currency reform measure in November 2016. It cannot be denied here that the BJP’s pan-Indian ambition was fuelled further by its remarkable performance in 2014 Lok Sabha elections followed by rejuvenating victories in states and local elections around the country. Its dream of a Congress-mukt Bharat seems to be gaining steam with its rising popularity and nation-wide acceptance as the only defining dominant political force among the body politic. There is already talk of an alliance called SEDA coming up in the south, along the lines of NEDA (North East Democratic Alliance), to put up a united front against regional satraps. If the alliance ever fructifies, BJP’s southern footprint won’t be a dream too far. After its rout in Delhi and Bihar in 2015, the BJP has indubitably taken its lessons with utter sincerity to live down the labefaction and continue with its national juggernaut.
Its momentous foray into Northeast India in 2016 will go down in history as once-in-a-lifetime event that nearly uprooted the all-time dominant party –Congress – from two of its long-standing strongholds in separate events. Of the eight Northeastern states, BJP now rules in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, and shares power with respective regional ruling parties in Nagaland and Sikkim. Its first-ever rousing success in Assam against the mighty Congress is in a way a tacit endorsement of its Northeast mission. With its uniquely crafted agenda of Poriborton (Change) and bringing permanent solution to the problem of illegal migration, the mission Assam was a hit, thereby leading to the formation of a regional non-Congress alliance called NEDA under the Chairmanship of Congress defector Himanta Biswa Sarma who is well-cherished for scripting BJP’s Assam conquest. His alienation with the Congress proved a boon for the BJP. As BJP’s poll strategist, Sarma proved his worth by helping the party win its first-ever seats in Manipur byelections in 2015.
With his magical turnaround plan that helped the BJP to get its hand on the one-time Congress bastion, Assam, the Sarma-led NEDA threw open another Congress-ruled state, Arunachal Pradesh, to the BJP in a matter of months. Having bagged Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, the saffron party-led alliance is now eyeing up Manipur, Meghalaya and Mizoram. The fundamental planks that kept the saffron brigade afloat in Assam and enabled mass defection in Arunachal may also work in its favour in other three Congress bastions. The fact that the Northeastern states are heavily dependent on central funds for development works in the region cannot be brushed aside. And therefore, welcoming the ruling dispensation at the centre becomes more of a necessity than any other priority.
The demonetization blues that gripped the entire nation seemingly failed to catch up with the upbeat mood of northeasterners that supported Modi’s war on black cash like nobody else did. The fact is more palpable from the party’s bypoll victory in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh post demonetization. As the Assembly poll is currently underway in trouble-torn Manipur, it remains to be seen how the BJP performs there. Even if the people of Manipur unseat their three-time CM Ibobi Singh and the mandate goes in BJP’s favour, the crisis of economic blockade in the state needs immediate solution. The BJP needs to bring its good rapport to bear with the Naga population to bring them to terms with the Meities. On the face of it, the historical discord between the people of the hills and the valley has been further exacerbated by the failure of the Ibobi-led Congress government in Manipur to discreetly handle the situation and find an amicable solution to the months-long economic impasse. The BJP’s win must ensure that it doesn’t repeat the same mistakes. Whatever may be the political ideology of the winning party, it is all the more important for the party to make sure that the regional sentiments and sensibilities are not skated over for measly political gains. As the new India progresses towards a more mature democracy, the politics of xenophobia, parochialism and jingoism will be a thing of the past, lest we forget!
-By Subash Deb
The writer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Picture Courtesy: Economic Times