Imphal/Itanagar, July 20 (IANS) The recent collapse of the 31-month-old Shiv Sena-Nationalist Congress Party-Congress alliance Maha Vikas Aghadi government headed by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray in Maharastra, reminded of political developments in two northeastern states — Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur, where the BJP formed the governments through political jugglery.
Political pundits observed that the BJP aiming to make the northeast region a “Congress Mukt” (Congress free) political bastion, is now running governments in four of the eight northeastern states — Assam, Tripura, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh.
In the remaining four states the BJP led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) partners – the National People’s Party heads the government in Meghalaya and the Mizo National Front (MNF) in Mizoram.
While the BJP with two MLAs is a partner in the NPP-led Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) government, the saffron party has a solitary legislator in Mizoram and is not allied with the MNF government.
The BJP with 12 MLAs is an ally of Nagaland’s United Democratic Alliance (UDA) in which the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) is the dominant party of the UDA, which is an all-party alliance governing India’s first opposition-less state.
Another NDA ally, the Sikkim Krantikari Morcha runs the government in Sikkim. The SKM has 19 MLAs in the 32-member Sikkim legislative assembly and the BJP 12.
The BJP, in the February-March elections, had secured a thin majority of 32 MLAs in the 60-member Manipur Assembly and like neighbouring Assam, returned to power for a second consecutive term. The party wrested power in the northeastern state in 2017 despite not securing an absolute majority.
In the 2017 assembly polls, the Congress had become the single largest party by bagging 28 of the 60 seats while the BJP had won 21, but the saffron party managed to cobble up the numbers as some Congress MLAs defected and facilitated the BJP to form the government.
The BJP had also managed the support of four National People’s Party (NPP) members, four Naga People’s Front (NPF) MLAs, the lone Trinamool Congress MLA and an Independent member to cross the magic figure of 31 in the 60-member House.
The NPP, a national political party, is headed by Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma.
In 2016, after a series of political developments a BJP government was formed in Arunachal Pradesh after 33 out of the 43 Peoples’ Party of Arunachal (PPA) MLAs led by Chief Minister Pema Khandu joined the saffron party.
Khandu broke away from the Congress along with 42 lawmakers in September 2016 for the PPA and then the BJP.
The border state has been struggling with political instability since December 2015 when Congress dissidents revolted against former Chief Minister Nabam Tuki.
Securing 41 seats in the 60-member assembly, the BJP formed its first elected government in Arunachal Pradesh in May 2019.
Another northeastern state, Meghalaya has had a history of political instability since it was carved out of Assam in 1972.
Meghalaya has had 11 leaders as the head of government, six of whom belonged to the Congress party, including the first Chief Minister Capt. Williamson A Sangma.
Except for Capt. Williamson Sangma (1972-1977), Salseng C Marak (February 19, 1993, to March 9, 1998) and Mukul Sangma (2013-2018) none could complete a full term.
However, the NPP-led incumbent Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) government led by Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma is expected to complete its five-year term in March next year.
Meghalaya had President’s rule two times. The first was from October 11, 1991, to February 5, 1992, the second was from March 18, 2009, to May 12, 2009.
Amid the changing political situation in the northeastern region, especially after the BJP’s return to power in Manipur for a second consecutive term with absolute majority, Assembly elections would be held in Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura early next year and in Mizoram in November-December in 2023.
Political pundits feel that when the BJP and other local parties are grabbing the political base of the Congress, the party is making no serious efforts to keep its base intact in one of its erstwhile strongholds.
Political commentator Apurba Kumar Dey said: “Except in Assam, the Congress is not even an opposition party in the remaining seven northeastern states. When their organisational strength weakened gradually, the central and state leadership remained indifferent to the party’s future plans.”
Dey told IANS: “Due to their ideological stand and the political mindset of the erstwhile national leaders, including Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi, irrespective of caste, creed, religion and community, people of the northeastern region overwhelmingly supported the Congress for many years.”
“But during the last two decades, the party’s strength in all aspects has declined, which got reflected in elections over the years.”
“Central leaders of the Congress are solely responsible for the party’s almost non-existence in the region. The party appointed junior and inexperienced leaders as state in-charges in the northeast, leading to ineffective state organisations,” Dey observed.