Capturing power in six states in a span of little over three years is no mean achievement. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) should be congratulated for achieving this remarkable feat. When the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) came to power at the Centre, out of seven North-Eastern states, five were ruled by the Congress. Tripura was ruled by Left Front and Nagaland was under the rule of Naga People’s Front (NPF). But the entire scenario has undergone a sea change since May, 2014. Now, except for Mizoram all Congress ruled states in the region are governed either by BJP or a coalition government in which the saffron party is a major partner. In other words, the tricolour of Congress has drifted in to oblivion in the region and the vacuum has been filled by BJP with the help of regional parties. Naturally, the saffron camp is ecstatic over the political developments in the region. Thus the party wasted observed March 4 nationwide as ‘Victory Day.’ Prime Minister Narendra Modi has proclaimed the achievement as an acceptance of the development agenda of his government. BJP president Amit Shah has dedicated the victory in the Northeast to its people and to the workers and supporters of the party. Many observers have also claimed that now the colour of Northeast region is saffron.
But without taking any credit away from BJP for its spectacular electoral performance in the Northeast, it can be said that the dream of painting the region in saffron is still not fully accomplished. Definitely, BJP will consolidate its position in the states where the party is in power. But the fact remains that notwithstanding electoral victories, the soil under its feet is yet to be solid. BJP has largely benefitted by the absence of the Congress. For example, the party has increased its vote share in Tripura from 1.5% in 2013 to nearly 45% in 2018. But a careful look at the increase in vote share will prove that the saffron brigade has not yet left taken much of the Left’s vote share. Vote share of the Left has only come down by 3%. So where did BJP get those extra votes? Surely, the Congress supporters have voted for BJP. All through the last 25 years of Left rule in Tripura, vote share of Congress party was between 35 to 38%. But this time the grand-old party of Indian politics had merely managed 1.3% of votes. Again in Meghalaya, BJP put up nearly 50 candidates. But only two of them managed to win. Even after the debacle, the party is in power in the State courtesy regional parties like National People’s Party (NPP) and United Democratic Front (UDF). Earlier, similar arrangements unfolded in Manipur too. BJP of its own could not form the government. It was made possible only when two regional parties decided to join hands with BJP. In Nagaland too, BJP is in power by virtue of its pre-poll alliance with the newly formed National Democratic and Progressive Party (NDPP). In Assam, the party captured power by virtue of an electoral understanding with the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP). In Arunachal, all the Congress legislatures shifted their loyalties to the BJP and BJP formed the government. In all the above mentioned states BJP has cleverly capitalised the political void created with the weakening of Congress. Now the party faces the real challenge. It is time for them to deliver. But more than delivering the goods what BJP must do to really paint the region in saffron, is to accept the plurality of India. Otherwise, BJP will never be the party of the Northeasterners. More than popular support, the party will have to always rely on regional partners and chance factors to achieve success in the region.