Meghalaya saves Congress the blushes, may spell trouble for BJP in Manipur

Ri-Bohi: Women show their ID cards while standing in a queue to cast their vote at a polling station during the State Assembly elections, in Ri-Bohi district of Meghalaya on Tuesday. PTI Photo
As Rahul Gandhi jetted off to the cooler climes of Italy, he left behind the earthquake in the northeast, the decimation of the Congress, near complete.

The region that was once awash with blue is now almost entirely saffron.

Almost entirely? The Congress’s blushes were saved by Meghalaya where the party staved off anti-incumbency and kept the BJP at bay, possibly because of the role of the Conrad Sangma-led National People’s Party (NPP) which has emerged as the second largest force in the state.

A bit about NPP: it is an ally of the Bharatiya Janata Party at the Centre, Rajasthan and Manipur, but fought the elections in Meghalaya on its own. Why? possibly because of the dreams and ambitions of its leader Conrad Sangma, son of former Congress leader Purno Sangma. Will NPP play the role of the opposition in Meghalaya? If the Congress beckons, it might join the government, leaving  the BJP out there in the opposition alone. If the Congress woos it hard enough – which it is sure to – the BJP’s government in neighbouring Manipur might be in trouble: because it is dependent for its survival on four NPP MLAs of whom three are ministers. With 28 MLAs in the Manipur Assembly after elections were held in early 2017, Congress veteran Ibobi Singh was turfed out although he represented the single biggest political group. A BJP-led, NPP supported government led by N Biren Singh was sworn in. And now, that government faces instability: and it is likely to be a matter of weeks.

But to return to Tripura, where the BJP has posted a magnificent victory. Nothing much remains to be said. The question is how the CPI(M) will pick up its pieces and reinvent itself.

The situation is intriguingly complex in Nagaland. The BJP broke its partnership with the Naga People’s Front (NPF) ahead of assembly elections and picked its rival National Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) as an ally, naming veteran leader Neiphiu Rio as the alliance’s chief ministerial candidate.

So basically the BJP did a deal with both groups: as the NPF continued to be a part of the Northeastern Democratic Alliance – an umbrella group of over half-a-dozen regional parties in the north-east led by the BJP – and an ally of the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) at the Centre.

The BJP, which leads in around 10 seats, will therefore hold the key to forming the government and will be open to an alliance with whichever group that has more numbers.

When former chief minister Rio quit the party this January and moved to the NDPP, significantly broadening the political landscape of the state, the BJP chose him as its ally. Now, whichever of the two regional forces emerges victorious, the BJP is set to be a key component of any future government in Kohima.

The man of the moment is Ram Madhav, BJP general secretary who scripted – along with Himanta Biswa Sarma – the BJP’s north eastern success. How will the Modi government reward him remains to be seen.



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