New Delhi: When protests on the citizenship bill erupted in North East India earlier this year many believed it had spoiled the BJP’s chances in the region for the Lok Sabha polls.
Yet, the saffron party and its allies walked away with 18 of the 25 seats up for grabs in the northeastern states, successfully weathering the storm of unrest that rocked most parts of Assam, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram. The Congress, the grand old part of India, was restricted to just four seats, while its allies bagged two. One constituency was won by an Independent candidate.
When protest broke out against the Centre’s plan to bring the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, (CAB) — dubbed to be against the interest of the indigenous people of the region — many political commentators believed that it would mar the BJP’s chances in the general elections in the North East. Violent agitations in Assam, Manipur along with protests in Mizoram, Meghalaya and Tripura against the bill forced the Centre to abort plans to introduce it in Rajya Sabha allowing it to lapse.
However, proving the naysayers wrong, the BJP and its allies gained majorly, especially in Assam where a total of 14 seats were up for grabs. BJP on its own won in nine seats in the state. In Arunachal, Union Minister Kiren Rijiju led a clean sweep for the BJP on the two Lok Sabha seats in the state, routing the Congress.
While Rijiju retained his Arunachal West seat, his party colleague Tapir Gao trumped Congress candidate Lowangcha Wanglat in the Arunachal East constituency. Assam Finance Minister and BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma said the win for the NDA in the region was all because of the “tremendous development” of the North East under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership.
“He has brought a new era for the people of the North East. Today, every part of the North East is connected with Railways, internet and now, there is also air connectivity in every state (of the region),” he said. In Manipur, the BJP and the Naga Peoples Front won the Inner Manipur and Outer Manipur seats respectively, both of which were won by the Congress in 2014.
The BJP further strengthened its position in the region by wresting the two constituencies — Tripura East and Tripura West — in Tripura from the Congress. In 2014, both these seats were won by the CPI(M). NDA ally Sikkim Krantikari Morcha added muscle to the coalition grabbing the lone seat in Sikkim by defeating the Sikkim Democratic Front’s candidate.
In Mizoram, NDA ally Mizo National Front’s nominee C Lalrosanga defeated Independent candidate Lalnghinglova Hmar by 8,140 votes in the only Lok Sabha constituency of the state. Congress had won the seat in the last term. BJP ally Democratic Progressive Party’s Tokheho Yepthomi won the lone seat in Nagaland defeating Congress candidate K L Chishi by 16,344 votes in a seesaw contest.
In a breather for the Congress, the party won the Shillong seat in Meghalaya although it lost Tura constituency to NDA ally National People’s Party. The two parties had also won the respective seats in 2014. Going by the outcome, the BJP can claim that the Lotus (its party symbol) is well and truly blooming in the North East.