Shift in north-east politics

There is no problem if the ongoing tussle revives regional politics in the region.

Shift in north-east politics

The recent assembly poll results prove yet again that the saffron surge is continuing in the country. The present BJP, under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi, really seems invincible.

Today, there is a big question mark about the credibility of the opposition parties. So also, the political developments that have taken place after the declaration of the poll results obviously prove how PM Modi’s leadership and status have attained a higher octave with the passing time in the political canvass of the country.

However, the political developments in the north-east show the opposite picture. The BJP is desperate to keep its hold in this region. But there are challenges as well for the saffron party. The poll results in Mizoram did not go in favour of the BJP.


So also, the BJP’s strategy to remain with the ruling party has not materialised in Mizoram. The poll result in Mizoram shows a revival of regional politics in the state.

This is undoubtedly irritating for the north-east BJP. The new government of Mizoram has given indication that the ruling party, the Zoram People’s Movement (ZPM), has a different strategy to win the confidence of the stakeholders in the state.

Just after assuming office, the Mizoram chief minister displayed solidarity with the refugees from Myanmar and Manipur.

He also assured them of shelter and assistance. This has initiated a new controversy.

The Manipur chief minister, N Biren Singh, reacted sharply against the statement issued by the new Mizoram chief minister.

The Manipur CM cautioned new Mizoram CM Lalduhoma against interfering in the internal affairs of Manipur.

CM Singh raised questions regarding the constitutional rights of the Mizoram chief minister.

The Manipur CM has also informed that there is a larger consensus comprising the political leaderships of Assam, Nagaland, Meghalaya, and Manipur to reach an amicable solution to the inter-state border disputes. However, the tone and trajectory of the new chief minister of Mizoram give different indications. Naturally, consensus between the leaderships of the BJP and ZPM seems like a distant dream. This development is not at all positive, considering the larger interests of the region.

No doubt, the BJP has tried to make the northeast a new laboratory to experiment with saffron ideology and has achieved some initial successes. Today, the BJP is a dominant political force in the region. But considering the diverse identity affiliations of the people of the north-east, it becomes evident that the BJP’s strategy in the context of north India and the Hindi heartland cannot be successful in the north-eastern states.

If the BJP tries to dictate the political discourse in this region, this will backfire. The stubborn stand taken by the Mizoram chief minister proves that he is not ready to dance to the BJP’s string. If things remain confined to mere political loss and gain, it is alright. But the question has arisen regarding the rights of the ethnic and religious communities. The message of the Mizoram chief minister is loud and clear.

He is not ready to accept the standpoint of the Manipur government regarding the refugees who are forced to live in a dismal state across the India-Myanmar border. The policy is to label the present Manipur government as loyal to the BJP leadership, keeping aside the legitimate rights of the Meiteis and the Kukis. Thus, the agenda of the Mizoram chief minister is quite clear.

He wants to project both N Biren Singh and the BJP as antiMeitei and anti-Kuki. The BJP has so far tried to find a political solution to the border disputes in the north-eastern states. A number of bilateral agreements have been signed by the chief ministers of the north-east to resolve the disputes.

But nothing substantive has taken place on the ground so far. The interstate border dispute is very delicate in the context of the north-east.

There has always been doubt about whether the policy to resolve the decades-old interstate border controversy can be made through political consensus.

In fact, what the BJP has tried is to resolve the issue according to its policy and agenda. Naturally, it has not succeeded so far.

But the concerning reality is that the Mizoram chief minister has tried to send the message that the issues of the north-east cannot be addressed as per the political agenda of the BJP.

He has categorically made N Biren Singh somewhat responsible for the Manipur violence.

Naturally, the BJP is not ready to lose political space. Similarly, the BJP cannot afford to accept allegations regarding its governance in Manipur.

To counter these, N Biren Singh adopted the counter-offensive strategy against his Mizoram counterpart. The developments are concerning for various reasons. The inter-state border dispute is a delicate issue. The gravity of the inter-state border dispute can be understood from the 2021 Assam-Mizoram border clashes. The conflicts in Manipur that rocked the entire region are yet another example. Also, the inter-state border dispute in the north-east is related to the larger security interests of India. Above all, the inter-state border dispute has great strategic ramifications.

The geo-strategic location of Mizoram makes the state vulnerable. Mizoram has border disputes with all the adjourning states: Assam, Manipur and Tripura. Mizoram shares an international border with Myanmar and Bangladesh. The recent developments both in Mizoram and Manipur show that border disputes between the two states may trigger.

Similarly, the rights of Meitei and the Kuki communities, which have been allegedly denied by the present Manipur government, should not be perceived with a casual approach. So also, the influence of the churches and the Mizoram government’s policy of larger Christian solidarity against Manipur is hard to ignore. There seems to be legitimate apprehension as far as the emerging relationship between the two north-eastern states is concerned.

Similarly, the trans-border connections of the internal affairs of various north-eastern states have always been a matter of grave concern, not only for the integrity of the north-east but also for the larger strategic interests of India. The strategic think tank in New Delhi is well aware of the divisive agendas of Myanmar, China, and Bangladesh. Similarly, keeping in view the conflicting histories of various north-eastern states, things cannot be accepted lightly.

There is no problem if the ongoing tussle revives regional politics in the region.

But beyond politics, there are concerning realities that pose both strategic and security threats. This demands that New Delhi be proactive. If political dominance creates intolerance in the region, this should be dealt with strictly. The important issue is not registering victory in the 25 Lok Sabha seats in the 2024 general elections from the north-eastern states. No political party should doubt the political maturity of the people of the north-east.

They exercise the franchise as per democratic principles in every election. The important point is to safeguard the strategic interests of the region. However, this cannot be done by expanding and exploring political solidarity.

The policy demands winning the confidence of the people and ensuring they protect their indigenous rights.

But will the New Delhi, Manipur, and Mizoram governments afford to think so? This remains to be seen.

The writer is an independent contributor.