Tripura triumph: BJP rises in N-E

Deccan Herald Mar 5 2018, 00:15 IST

The BJP has achieved a remarkable electoral feat with its decisive victory in Tripura and a good performance in Nagaland. In Meghalaya, which has delivered a hung assembly, it is in a position to punch above its weight. It has extended its footprint into the entire region now. It is true that the governments being replaced in all three states have been in power for a long time and had to contend with anti-incumbency. It is also true that the small states in the region generally tend to support the party in power at the Centre. The Congress, which was the dominant party, has been in steady decline, mainly because of organisational and leadership problems, giving ample space for an alternative in its place. The BJP was alert and fleet-footed enough to take advantage of these factors, though it did not ideologically relate to the region and had to start from scratch. Wherever needed, it kept its ideology on the back burner, made promises that appealed to important sections, entered into tactical alliances suitable for each state, campaigned hard and used its resources well. It also had the greater will to win, whatever the means.

The most remarkable victory was in Tripura where the 25-year-old Left Front rule has come to an end. The BJP raised its vote share in the state from 1.5% to 43% in the space of five years. The Left Front was not unpopular, with Chief Minister Manik Sarkar having a clean reputation and the government having a record of good administration. But the BJP struck an alliance with the IPFT, a party of the indigenous people of the state, and managed a wholesale shift - lock, stock and leaders, so to say - of the main opposition, the Congress, which found its support sink from 36.5% to 1.8% vote share. The BJP succeeded in consolidating the anti-government vote and split the pro-government vote, and with ground-level work that started three years ago and a carpet bombing campaign in the last three months, the Left stronghold was ready to fall.

The party has done well in Nagaland, where it has won 11 seats, and its alliance with a newly formed party, the NDPP, 28 seats out of 60. It won only two seats in Meghalaya but the NPP, with which it has an unstated alliance, has won 19 seats out of 60. The Congress, which was the ruling party, is the largest party, but is well short of a majority. It was the electoral sense to form the right alliances and the political sense to tone down some of the party's offensive policies and image that helped to boost the BJP's performance in the two states. Others, who lacked the winning ways, right and wrong, got hit.

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