NEDA revival and BJP’s Congress-mukt agenda
THOUGH BJP managed to resurrect the North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) and lend substance to its formation by bringing on board the alliance partners, the saffron party and allies will have many explanations to do in order to nurse the wound suffered by the northeast citizens when the Centre tried to implement the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, among other issues plaguing the region. While some of the NEDA partners, especially those in power, unhesitating to cosy up with the BJP was on expected line as they all need the patronage of the Union government to develop their respective states, Ram Madhav’s success in reviving the party’s ties with the AGP is without an iota of doubt the biggest achievement. Ram Madhav holding lengthy meetings with leaders of regional parties suggest that the BJP has not only realised that the Citizenship Bill push hurt the sentiment of the NE people but is also aware that its ‘Congress-mukt’ objective will be short lived in case the NEDA partners continue to fritter. The BJP pointsman has done his part in keeping the NEDA flock intact, stitching alliance with new parties and reaching electoral understanding with its major partners. However, it will be seat sharing formula that might recreate fissures within the alliance, which was floated after the 2014 Lok Sabha polls with the sole objective to uproot the Congress footprints in the region. As Ram Madhav said the number of seats that the BJP and its partners will contest in the eight states of the region will be declared on March 16 in New Delhi.
The seat allotment formula that BJP strategists will come up within few days’ time for the northeast poll battle will be interesting as it would be hard to keep all its allies in upbeat mood without concurring to the partners’ ambition. Similar to the BJP unlikely to cede much territory to its allies in those states ruled by it, it would be wishful thinking that the Neiphiu Rio-led Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party, Zoramthanga's Mizo National Front and the National People’s Party of Conrad K Sangma would part with the limited seats in their states to the BJP. Thus, the seat sharing formula might be confined mainly in Assam as the AGP might want to test its popularity, especially after the ‘stunt’ of pulling out of the government to protest against CAB. Regardless of being the junior partner in the BJP-led Assam government, AGP is one of the prominent regional parties in northeast and would certainly hope to strengthen its foothold. Keeping aside the electoral aspiration and calculation of the respective parties, the BJP and its allies hold the advantage in the region for the ensuing polls. The main task for the BJP to keep the Congress party out of the equation will depend on how astute the campaign leaders would be in skirting around the CAB rage or in erasing the northeast masses’ bitter CAB memories. For the Congress leaders, this election will be most crucial since all the eight states in the region, including Sikkim, are now ruled either by the BJP or its allies and therefore breaching the BJP fortress will entail tactful exploitation of the CAB sentiment, among other issues.