When ci­ti­zens can dic­tate their terms to politi­cians

The forth­com­ing elec­tions in the North­east will shape both the pol­i­tics of the states and the na­tional par­ties

Hindustan Times (Gurgaon) - - Comment - Prashant Jha Varun Gandhi is BJP na­tional gen­eral sec­re­tary and a Lok Sabha MP The views ex­pressed are per­sonal prashant.jha1@htlive.com

churn­ing and elec­tions have given Megha­laya’s di­verse so­cial groups — across the Khasi, Jain­tia and Garo hills — a plat­form to ar­rive at a power-shar­ing ar­range­ment. This has brought sta­bil­ity, al­low­ing the state to fo­cus on eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties.

But be­sides the sig­nif­i­cance th­ese elec­tions have for the re­spec­tive states, the three polls are also im­por­tant for the three larger par­ties and na­tional pol­i­tics. Take the Left. The CPM, al­ready a pale shadow of its past af­ter los­ing Ben­gal, is re­duced to be­ing in power in only Ker­ala and Tripura. In Agartala, bar­ring a pe­riod of five years from 19881993, it has been in power for 40 years. But to­day it con­fronts an ag­gres­sive BJP ma­chine which has de­ployed its re­sources, and is dis­play­ing its abil­ity to co-opt lead­ers and ally with dis­parate groups. A loss for the Left will mark the end of its hege­mony in Tripura ; it will leave the CPM with no state across North, Cen­tral, West and East India; it will de­prive the party of re­sources to re­cover; and it will gen­er­ate de­spon­dency across its ranks and sym­pa­this­ers.

The Congress is fight­ing to re­tain power in Megha­laya. It has a strong CM in Mukul Sangma. But it is sad­dled with anti-in­cum­bency, fac­tional feuds and con­fronts both a strong BJP and a stronger lo­cal chal­lenger in the Na­tional Peo­ple’s Party. Re­tain­ing power will be a morale booster. But los­ing power and see­ing BJP en­ter govern­ment, in this Chris­tian-dom­i­nated state, will re­duce the Congress to only three states across the coun­try. The Congress will then only have Mi­zo­ram in the en­tire belt from Delhi all the way to India’s east­ern-most bor­ders.

For the BJP, the polls rep­re­sent an­other op­por­tu­nity to shed its tag of be­ing a Hindi heart­land party. It hopes to con­tinue its quest for both a ‘Congress-mukt’ and, in Tripura’s case, a ‘CPM-mukt’ Bharat. En­try in govern­ment in th­ese states will take the BJP’s na­tional tally to 21 states. A spike in num­bers in Na­ga­land and Megha­laya will al­low the BJP to claim it is not just a Hindu party. But a de­feat or a dis­mal per­for­mance will show to the party that heart­land Hin­dutva will ex­tract its costs in other pock­ets of India. The elec­tions will show if the BJP’s mo­ment of supreme po­lit­i­cal dom­i­nance or as Yo­gen­dra Yadav terms it, po­lit­i­cal hege­mony, per­sists or whether cracks are be­gin­ning to ap­pear. Na­ga­land, Tripura, Megha­laya may be small states. But their elec­tions pro­vide an op­por­tu­nity to ci­ti­zens to ne­go­ti­ate with their po­lit­i­cal elites. Their spe­cific ge­o­graph­i­cal lo­ca­tions, with spe­cific his­to­ries of po­lit­i­cal vi­o­lence, lend them greater sen­si­tiv­ity. The out­come here will shape not only the pol­i­tics of the states but the for­tunes and po­lit­i­cal strengths of India’s na­tional par­ties.

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