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BY: Khamkhansuan Hausing
The BJP may not see a windfall in the region, but its fortunes are set to improve.
Even as five electoral constituencies in Assam and one in Tripura went to the polls on April 7, with more lined up on April 9, 12 and 24, the Northeast has caught an unusual amount of attention from the national media. This not only underscores better connectivity of the region with mainland India which makes the “live telecast” of immediate electoral campaigns and events compelling, it also shows how the region, which accounts for 25 Lok Sabha seats, has been transformed into an important electoral battleground by the compulsions of coalition politics.
Not surprisingly, Narendra Modi, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, has already made three rounds of campaigning in the region between February 8 and March 30. Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi of the Congress have had one extensive tour each in the region so far, during this time.
These campaigns highlighted the contrasting styles and strategies of Modi and the Gandhis in as much as they highlighted their similarities. Modi and the Gandhis have laboriously concentrated their campaigns in constituencies where their strengths are being tested, namely, Silchar and Pasighat for the BJP and Guwahati and Lakhimpur for the Congress. Unlike the above, Sikkim and Tripura did not figure prominently in their campaigns, which suggested their acceptance of the fait accompli: given that the Sikkim Democratic Front and the CPM, respectively, have an unassailable electoral hold over these two states, neither the BJP nor the Congress is likely to make inroads.
While Modi made a serious effort to project himself as an efficient and decisive leader with a pan-India appeal and showed his determination to wipe out the “corrupt” and “inefficient” Congress, the Gandhis underscored the autocratic and divisive leadership style of Modi. They also emphasised the longstanding contribution of the Congress to inclusive development, secularism and decentralisation in the region and beyond. Reportedly, Modi’s theatrical speeches in Imphal, Guwahati, Silchar and Pasighat have not only shored up enthusiasm among the conservative Hindu segments of the populations, but also boosted the morale of party workers, particularly in the three states of Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.
Taking this lead, most political analysts focus their attention on the possible impact these high-profile campaigns might have on the Northeast’s electoral politics in general and on immediate electoral outcomes in particular. While the query is a valid one, it is equally important to underline the diversity of issues and conditions prevailing in the Northeast electoral scene that might obscure the tangible effect(s) these campaigns have on immediate electoral outcomes.
At the outset, it must continued…