The BJP, which is still upbeat over its progress in the Northeast, may go solo in Meghalaya where Assembly elections are due early next year. Sources said the party is expected to take a final decision on its strategy after an ongoing survey is completed.
Although the National People’s Party led by James Conrad is a constituent of BJP-led NEDA in the northeastern region, the party’s assessment is that contesting alone in the upcoming polls would be better for both parties. “The BJP won no seats in the last Assembly election. But in the 2014 Lok Sabha election, the BJP was first in six of the seven Assembly constituencies in Shillong,” said Nalin Kohli, BJP secretary in charge of Meghalaya. The party appears to be confident that going solo would win it more seats rather than contesting poll in coalition.
In an attempt to take advantage of the anti-incumbency factor against the Congress-led government, the BJP recently appointed Union Tourism Minister K J Alphons, a Catholic, as the minister in charge of elections in the Christians-dominated state. Alphons visited the state earlier this week and held meetings.
Alphons’s visit and the meetings with church leaders, including bishops, were aimed at allaying apprehensions among the community over the BJP’s ideology and policies, especially in the wake of the beef ban controversy. In the meetings, the church leaders conveyed their fears to the minister. Alphons, according to party sources, tried to take the community leaders into confidence.
The BJP got a boost when two Independent legislators joined the party, marking its entry into the 60-member Assembly. “There are more legislators who are keen to join the BJP and some of them are in touch with the party,” said a source, adding that two MLAs from the ruling coalition have expressed desire to switch to the BJP.
According to Kohli, poor development will be the main issue the party will be highlighting in the run-up to the Assembly elections. The poll process is being overseen by BJP general secretary Ram Madhav and Himanta Biswa Sarma, convener of NEDA, and the day-to-day working is being monitored by Alphons as well as Kohli.
“Ten years of non-development in the Garo Hills, a family bastion of Chief Minister Mukul Sangma. Look at the bridges there, most of them are still wooden. Lack of development and opportunities will be the main issues in the election campaign,” Kohli told The Indian Express.
The BJP seems to be following the same strategy that it had in Assam and Manipur. In Assam, Sarma, a former Congress leader and minister in the Tarun Gogoi government, joined the BJP just before polls. Nine other Congress MLAs followed. In Manipur too, six MLAs including the current Chief Minister N Biren Singh, joined the BJP from the Congress.