TODAY -

Critical battle 2024 : Modi's warriors wear regional hats

Nirendra Dev *



The Hindutva issue is kept in the cold storage. The campaign for the first phase of voting ends on April 17, Wednesday. Most parts of the northeast region will vote on April 19. Of the 25 parliamentary seats in the region, 14 are in Assam, two each in Meghalaya, Manipur, Tripura, and Arunachal Pradesh, and one each in Mizoram, Nagaland and Sikkim.

On April 19, voting in Assam will take place in five segments - Dibrugarh, Jorhat, Kaziranga, Lakhimpur, and Sonitpur.

Christians are a majority in three states in a sparsely populated - Nagaland (88 percent), Mizoram (87 percent) and Meghalaya (75 percent). In Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur, they form more than 40 percent of the population, and in Sikkim, they are around 10 percent. In Assam, Christians are less than four percent of the population but they are decisive in certain pockets.

The BJP has deployed a different and a sort of a specialised electoral strategy in the northeast. Thus, the basic approach in northeast India is marked by laying emphasis on governance and not religion.

In other words, the Hindutva agenda has been kept at bay or in the cold storage. The real ground work - the electoral tasks are left to its allies, especially in the Christian-majority states, like the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) in Nagaland and the National People's Party (NPP) in Meghalaya. The NPF -- originally a BJP's ally from Nagaland from 2003 - has come handy in Outer Manipur.

Tribal Kuki leaders allege the BJP governments in New Delhi and the state are tacitly supporting the Meiteis. Kachui Timothy Zimick, a former civil servant, therefore has a tough contest ahead in Outer Manipur.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi skipped campaigning during the Mizoram state polls in 2023 and this year foreign minister Dr S Jaishankar released the Vision Document at Aizawl. The BJP has fielded state president Vanlalmuaka and Congress candidate is a former Babu, Lalbiakzama.

The ruling Zoram People's Movement (ZPM), which is contesting the Lok Sabha polls for the first time has fielded debutant Richard Vanlalhmangaiha.

Home Minister Amit Shah visited Imphal earlier this week and surprised observers by his statement that attempts were made to alter Manipur's demography through infiltration. He also said that the Lok Sabha election in Manipur is between the forces “trying to break Manipur and those keeping it united”.

In another Christian stronghold state of Meghalaya, the BJP opted out of the poll race to support its regional partner, NPP led by Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma. In the Tura constituency, Chief Minister's sister Agatha Sangma is in the fray. She is locked in a triangular contest against Zenith Sangma of Trinamool Congress and also a Congress nominee Saleng A Sangma.

Trinamool Congress of Mamata Banerjee is contesting in 45 segments this year - one each in Meghalaya, Assam and Uttar Pradesh besides 42 in West Bengal. Many say, the success of TMC can halt Modi's powerful electoral juggernaut.

The Arunachal Christian Forum (ACF) in an April 3 circular urged all its member and denominational organizations to “extend full support and work for” Congress candidates Nabam Tuki and Bosiram Siram.

However, Congress is a struggling party today in the entire northeast region. Its leaders have abandoned the party to join the BJP.

The BJP chief ministers N. Biren Singh (Manipur), Himanta Biswa Sarma (Assam), Pema Khandu (Arunachal Pradesh), and Manik Saha (Tripura) are all Congress imports. Even NDPP leader and Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio is a former congressman.


* Nirendra Dev wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer can be contacted at nirendev1(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on April 18 2024.



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