Most of the exit polls had predicted a saffron surge in the Northeast. And they were right. With the trends getting clearer, BJP is all set to wrest Tripura, a Left bastion for over two decades, and party chief in the state, the young and popular Biplab Deb, will unseat four-time chief minister Manik Sarkar in all probability.
In Nagaland, the BJP-Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) alliance is ahead of the ruling Naga People’s Front, while chances of forming government in Meghalaya are also not looking impossible for the BJP with the ruling Congress falling short of the magic figure of 31 seats if the latest trends are any indication.
BJP national general secretary Ram Madhav has called Tripura results a “historic win”, with the party able to almost wipe out the Left from one of its last citadels. Congress has been decimated in the state. From 36% in 2013, the party’s vote share has come down to 1.9%.
The Congress could not open its account in Nagaland too, where the BJP in alliance with NDPP led by former CM Neiphiu Rio, who has already won his seat unopposed, is set to form government. The ruling NPF is trailing with 22 seats in its kitty so far.
Meghalaya appears to be the only solace for the Congress, with the grand old party maintaining its lead so far, though far behind the magic number of 31 required to retain the state. The BJP may try to stitch up an alliance with the ‘others’ here to form government, to prevent which senior Congress leaders Ahmed Patel and Kamal Nath have reached Shillong.
Tripura results say a lot about the surge of BJP in the Northeast, where election results were rarely awaited with such interest before. The rise of BJP is astonishing in Tripura, considering its performance in 2013 when the saffron party could barely register its presence and lost deposit in most of the seats it contested.
The party has been able to register an win on its own this time, giving a never-seen-before electoral performance. The ‘panna pramukh’ strategy, the ‘Chalo paaltayi (let’s change)’ slogan, the anti-incumbency factor — everything worked here for the BJP, which has registered an over 40 per cent vote share.
And the results leave the Left Front poorer than the country’s “poorest chief minister” Manik Sarkar, who the locals have rejected this time though he won his Dhanpur seat. “He (Sarkar) is good, but there is a lot of corruption around him,” a voter could be heard saying on TV. With only Kerala left with the Left, the red brigade needs to work harder now to keep afloat.
The trends in Nagaland have thrown up a very interesting situation. In a rare scenario, the state may actually not have an opposition this time around. While BJP+NDPP have reached the figure of 31 in the 60-member Assembly, the ruling NPF has also kept the option of joining hands with its old ally, BJP, open. Chief Minister TR Zeliang had predicted 27 seats for NPF, but the party has managed to bag only 24, seven short of majority to form government on its own.
Meghalaya may return Congress, though it doesn’t look as simple as that. Running nine seats short of majority, the party will need support from the ‘others’ (17 seats) if it has to retain the state. The BJP has lead in only four seats so far, but it is still hoping to be a player with the help of the same ‘others’, and the NPP, which has 16 seats and may play the kingmaker. CM Mukul Sangma has won both his seats, but it remains to be seen if he can retain his chair.