Scaling the rise of BJP in Northeast India on the founding day of world's largest party

April 6, 2017: Founded on April 6, 1980, The Bharatiya Janata Party is today known as the ‘World’s Largest Party’. 37 years ago, the BJP was founded with former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee at the helm as party president. As of 2016, it is the country’s largest political party in terms of representation in the national parliament and state assemblies, and it is the world’s largest party in terms of primary membership.

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Atal Bihari Vajpayee (PC: Indian Express)

On the occasion of its foundation day, lets take a look at the slow and steady advent of the saffron party in the Northeast Indian political scenario.

Rise of BJP in Northeast India

ASSAM

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Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda sonowal (extreme left), Prime Minister Narendra Modi (centre) and Assam Tourism/Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma (right)

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) created history in Assam and Northeast India by ending the Congress’s 15-year rule in Assam with a decisive mandate that vaulted it to power in the state for the first time in 2016 Assam elections.

The victory in Assam meant the BJP would get to play a decisive role in the politics of the tumultuous northeastern region, where it had earlier been a marginal political force which, the BJP did play in the following series of events in different states.

ARUNACHAL PRADESH

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Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu

After its massive and historical win in Assam, BJP then went on to set foot in Arunachal Pradesh when Pema Khandu, the chief minister who initially belonged to People’s Party of Arunachal (PPA) shifted his allegiance to the BJP.

Since becoming chief minister in July 2016, Pema Khandu and his government have twice changed their party affiliation; in September from the Indian National Congress to the Peoples Party of Arunachal, and then in December 2016 to the Bharatiya Janata Party. It is interesting to note how BJP played its cards in Arunachal.

On 16 September 2016, 43 MLAs from the ruling party, under the CM Pema Khandu, left Indian National Congress to join People’s Party of Arunachal, in alliance with Bharatiya Janata Party. Though Pema Khandu was still the Chief minister, it was soon expected that either a coalition government would be formed with BJP as the speaker of assembly had also changed sides with the CM, or that the Indian Government would dissolve the state assembly for a fresh general elections.

On December 21, 2016, Khandu was suspended from the party by the party president and Takam Pario was named as the next likely Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh after People’s Party of Arunachal suspended Khandu along with 6 other MLAs. But, BJP struck at the crucial hour In December 2016, Khandu proved majority on the floor with 33 of the People’s Party of Arunachal’s 43 legislators joining the Bharatiya Janata Party as the BJP party increased its strength to 45 and it had the support of two independents. He became the second Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh of Bharatiya Janata Party in Arunachal Pradesh after 44 days lead Gegong Apang government in 2003.

MANIPUR

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Manipur Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren Singh

Following its advent in Arunachal Pradesh, BJP then went on to eye Manipur and had a decisive win in the state in 2017 Assembly elections, overthrowing the 15 yr old Congress regime and scripting yet another history in the state after Assam .  Despite winning 21 out of 60 seats in the assembly elections as opposed to Congress’s 28, BJP managed to forge an alliance with smaller parties- NPP and NPF amidst huge drama in the state’s political arena before the ascent of Nongthombam Biren Singh as the Chief Minister of Manipur.

A SMALL STEP FORWARD IN OTHER NORTHEAST INDIAN STATES

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BJP has never been a part of the government in Tripura, Mizoram and Meghalaya. However, in Sikkim and Nagaland, BJP shares power with other political parties where it is a junior ally in the ruling alliance with Sikkim Democratic Front and Naga People’s Front respectively. Considering the present political scenario in the Northeast Indian region, BJP has already started eyeing on other non-BJP ruled states and it will not be wrong to say that Meghalaya will be on its hit list owing to its 2018 Assembly elections.

It may be mentioned that even in Assam’s victory, BJP strategically planted its position given the fact that an influential political leader such as Himanta Biswa Sarma shifted his allegiance from Congress to BJP and hence, he is also referred to as ‘The man behind the turbulence of Congress in Northeast India’. And now, we know where he is and what is he doing.

ALSO READ: Win in Manipur for BJP may spell doom for Mukul Sangma in Meghalaya!

PRESENCE IN OTHER STATES

As of March 2017, BJP has its Chief Ministers in thirteen states- Assam, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Goa (with Goa Forward Party and Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party), Gujarat, Haryana, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra (with Shiv Sena)
Manipur (with National People’s Party and, Naga People’s Front), Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

 -By Shweta Raj Kanwar for TNT- The Northeast Today

The writer can be contacted at shweta@thenortheasttoday.com

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