Politics in the north east - The road to 2019 Elections

Politics in the north east - The road to 2019 Elections

 The Politics of North East India-

               The North-Eastern Indian states – Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura have their own history, politics and culture that coalesce within the Indian democratic system. Every state has a unique history, and the political scenario and conflicts within each state can be traced back long before independence. The warring factions within communities, between various groups and neighbouring states, have their own problems that besiege growth and development in this region. During the pre-colonial period, North-East India was ruled by many of its own kings and chieftains. Many notable ones are the Koch and Ahom kings. These kingdoms existed in most parts of Assam and neighbouring states. Many had tried conquering these tribes like the Mughals and the Burmese but eventually, the North-East came under British colonial rule. After independence, many states broke away from each other and acceded to the Indian Union eventually gaining their regional prominence. However, between 1947 to 2019, there have been violent conflicts in many states and struggles in various parts of North-East India.

             The current political scenario is very different. There are 25 Lok Sabha seats and 14 Rajya Sabha seats combing all states of North-East India. Many might think that there is an advantage of having so many Chief Ministers(In the North-Eastern Indian states)compared to other states vis-à-vis the population in each state( The North- Eastern states of India compared to other states of India) and one Chief Minister for every state in India, by which passing constitutional amendment Bills (like GST) may be easy to target politically, however, the North-Eastern states are so diverse with so many different tribes and cultures ; the languages and dialects being so different between communities, it isn’t all that simple as it may seem! Between various states and inside every state there is also a lot of caste-based politics, religious division and interests of political leaders that keep the pot boiling. The tribes and people of the North-East differ in many aspects and can definitely not be framed under one common basket.

             The political narrative in the mainstream media compared to the reality on the ground in North-East India is of the stark contrast in many ways. There is a great dichotomy between national objectives and regional aspirations, hence, conflicts continue to mire states like Assam even today. The BJP and the Congress both have tried to use their potential in the North-Eastern states like- The North-East Democratic Alliance of the BJP led by Himanta Biswa Sarma, and the North-East coordination committee of the Congress led by Mukul Sangma. The existing gap between national and regional objectives has had governance and development issues not extending common ground among political leaders between the Centre and various states of North-East India. This has been one of the main issues, however, there are exceptions on many fronts. 

  The Road to 2019 Elections-

             Making political predictions for 2019 elections is going to be a challenging task for any analyst especially counting the North-Eastern states of India. In Assam, the NRC (National register of citizens of India) and immigrants’ issue have hit the ruling party with a negative perception in this region. The conflict between AGP (Asom Gana Parishad) and the BJP over Modi’s passing of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, was clearly conspicuous. The BJP’s stronghold on the North-Eastern states seems to be losing ground after its defeat in the Hindi heartland states; the Congress party also seems to be struggling with alliances and the internal tussle for leadership within the Congress party for the 2019 election. There might actually be chances of political parties forming a weak coalition government in 2019 but things may change as the stitching up of last-minute alliances could play out a different tone.

           The North-Eastern states have always been the fortress of the Congress and Left for a very long time however the BJP did swing things in its favour, away from the Congress as in the case with Assam. But many experts do think the other way around comparing the election of Mizoram with a regional resurgence, which means it isn’t particularly an upswing for the BJP. Mizoram is an example of how an anti-incumbency wave brought the MNF (Mizo National Front) to power ending the ten-year rule of the Congress government but also shattering the dreams of BJP (BJP winning one seat).

         The road to 2019 also depends on alliances and seat-sharing negotiations between political parties. Congress needs to reorient its electoral strategies with a course correction and has to understand that regional parties are equal partners in the game. The BJP has also realized that the political reality for the Lok Sabha elections in 2019 is quite challenging which means that a decline in Congress fortunes not necessarily means a forward march for the BJP, particularly in the North-Eastern states.

           The challenge for national parties in the North-Eastern states is to articulate the regional aspirations of the people. Both the BJP and the Congress have lessons to learn from regional players. The run-up to 2019 is going to be a tough one for political parties. One can only wait and watch how things will pan out for the big fight ahead in the polls? But, one thing is for sure- the North-Eastern states do have considerable sway over electoral politics in India, unlike national parties who generally foresee this region from above.

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