TODAY -

BJP, NPF and other NDA partners pay heavy price in 2024 polls

Nirendra Dev *

 Congress candidate Prof Angomcha Bimol Akoijam wins in Inner Manipur Parliamentary Constituency for 18th Lok Sabha polls :: June 04 2024
Congress candidate Prof Angomcha Bimol Akoijam wins in Inner Manipur Parliamentary Constituency on June 04 2024 :: Pix - Lamdamba Oinam



For India’s ruling party the BJP and its coalition NDA, it turned out to be a ‘win some, lose some’ election across the country, especially in the Christian-dominated northeastern states. People overwhelmingly voted against the BJP in Manipur and its NDA constituents NDPP, NPP and MNF in Nagaland, Meghalaya and Mizoram.

Of course, nowhere was this more evident than in strife-torn Manipur, where churches were damaged and burnt since May 3 last year. The sectarian conflict between Kukis and Meites has killed over 220 and displaced more than 50,000 people. One estimate says at least 350 places of worship, including churches, have been damaged.

In the Outer Manipur constituency, dominated by Naga and Kuki tribals, Alfred K. Arthur of Congress defeated Kachui Timothy Zimik of the Nagaland People’s Front. Of course, NPF has been a BJP ally for quite some time now in Manipur despite occasional skirmishes in Nagaland.

Surprisingly, the BJP also slipped in the Hindu Meitei-dominated Inner Manipur constituency, where Angomcha Bimol Akoijam of the Congress won against Basanta Kumar, a minister in the N Biren Singh government. Bimol Akojam is an Associate Professor, JNU, New Delhi.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi suffered a setback in the just concluded general elections as BJP's number nosedived considerably.

Modi time and again describes India as a 'mother of democracy'. The claim is always debated. But on the other hand, one can say politics is ruthless. It is more so during elections when issues involved are emotive -- like the religious rights of the Christians.

Analysts say voters in northeast -- four states Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram and Meghalaya wanted to punish a political party, BJP, its mentor RSS -- known for alleged anti-Christian image, and ultimately the sword of people's anguish fell on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and also on 'local regional heroes' and regional parties.

In Nagaland context, the ill-fated political protagonist is Chumben Murry. Murry and NDPP are not the only exceptions. Other regional parties also essentially catering to linguistic, ethnic and and religious (read Christian) aspirations of tribals had to pay a price for being friendly to the BJP.

In this entire game, Congress candidate Supongmeren Jamir emerged the man of the moment. The soft-spoken former NSF leader was typically successful in giving 60 MLAs, two deputy chief ministers and 'invincible' Neiphiu Rio the taste of their money and power.

Nagaland voted for the Congress nominee knowing very well that the grand old party does not have a single MLA in the state legislature for two consecutive terms (2018-2023) and also (from 2023 - that is the present House). But that did not prevent Supong's win.

"It is an unexpected outcome... People were angry with the BJP and they punished NDPP but went on to reward Congress which does not have adequate organisational strength," remarked one senior Nagaland-based politician on the condition of anonymity.

But in general sense everyone agrees - the 'hand of God' worked. That means the influence of the Church or some skeptics even called it divine intervention. The grapevine has it that even the Congress party did not take its prospects in the election seriously. Supong bravely decided to contest because nobody else volunteered for the task.

A former chief minister was urged to contest, but he was reluctant. “I am grateful to God and the people of Nagaland,” Supong Jamir said after his surprise win.

In Christian-majority Meghalaya, the Conrad Sangma-led National People's Party (NPP), which has the BJP as an alliance partner, suffered from people's anguish in the state's only two parliamentary constituencies. Chief Minister Conrad's sister and sitting MP Agatha Sangma lost to Saleng A Sangma of Congress by more than 155,000 votes in the Tura constituency.

In the prestigious Shillong seat based in Meghalaya's capital, Mazel Ampareen Lyngdoh of the Sangma's party came a poor third behind the winner, Ricky Andrew Syngkon of the newly floated Voice of the People Party, and the runner-up, sitting Congress MP Vincent Pala.

Ms Ampareen is the health minister in the Sangma ministry, but that was of little help in the face of voters’ discontent over the chief minister’s decision to welcome BJP support.

In Mizoram, the ruling Zoram People's Movement candidate, Richard Vanlalhmangaiha, won the seat. He defeated K. Vanlanvena of the Mizo National Front, a BJP ally that lost power in the November state polls. The Mizo tribal people share an ethnic bond with the Kukis of Manipur. The ethnic violence in Manipur appears to have had an impact on the parliamentary polls as well.

The BJP’s “excessive obsession” with retaining Biren Singh in Manipur only added to the seething anger among the voters. Perhaps it's time to examine what went wrong because Modi and his BJP believe they are “good readers of the people’s pulse.”

The BJP’s only consolation this time was in Hindu-majority Assam and Tripura states, as well as Arunachal Pradesh, where Christians make up around 30 percent of the population.

Earlier this month, the Nagaland Baptist Church Council (NBCC), an influential church body in the state, outright rejected an offer by the state Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to include church compounds among the places to be covered by the party’s cleanliness drive on May 11.

The NBCC stated the BJP should instead mobilise party members to safeguard 'persecuted churches' elsewhere in the country.


* Nirendra Dev wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer is based in New Delhi and can be contacted at nirendev1(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on June 07 2024.



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