A saffron wave seems to have swept through India’s three north-eastern states of Tripura, Meghalaya and Nagaland. The results in Tripura are perhaps the most remarkable where the Bharatiya Janata Party is all set to form the government - an unprecedented first in state that has been held by the CPM-led Left for over two decades now.
As trends started emerging this morning, Kiren Rijiju, Mos Home in the Narendra Modi government, and an MP from Arunachal Pradesh said: “The trends in all three states point to a new political direction, it will have an effect on national politics as well. We are confident of forming government in all three states.” That confidence wasn’t misplaced.
With leads coming in on all the seats, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP is ahead in 43 of the 59 seats that went to the hustings. The Left parties which had 50 seats in the 60-member state Assembly were ahead in just 16. Votes are being counted for just 59 of the 60 seats in the state. Polling in Charlilam constituency was deferred after the death of a candidate. It will now be held on March 12.
That Chief Minister Manik Sarkar was not able to make it an unprecedented fifth term in office comes as a big blow to the Left. Tripura and Kerala were the only two states in India where the party held sway. BJP’s Ram Madhav said: “This is a revolutionary result, all due to the blessings of Tripura Sundari Mata, the people of the state and the hard work of Prime Minister Modi and party workers.”
Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad quipped: "In a way the entire north-east is now with the BJP. Initially we used to say "Congress mukt Bharat' now I think we can say 'Vaampanth Mukt Bharat'."
In Meghalaya, the final trends showed that the Congress, despite emerging as the single largest party with leads on 20 seats, failed to reach the majority mark of 31. Here too votes are being counted for 59 seats as polling in Williamnagar was countermanded after the killing of one of the candidates.
Led by Chief Minister Mukul Sangma, it has managed to emerge as the single-largest party but may have to sit in the Opposition as it falls short of the majority mark. The Congress has dispatched senior leaders Ahmed Patel and Kamal Nath to Shillong ostensibly to keep its flock together. That may not amount to much given how the poll arithmetic is panning out.
The final leads show the Congress ahead in 21 seats, while BJP’s ally at the Centre, NPP, founded by former Lok Sabha Speaker PA Sangma, was ahead in 19 and the BJP itself in 2. Interestingly, another NDA partner, UDP, which contested the state polls separately, is leading in 6 seats and the others column show 11 independent candidates ahead.
Pollsters believe that if these trends hold, the NDA partners, who decided to go it alone in the state, may come together in a post-poll alliance to keep the Congress out. Giving strong indications of that, BJP’s Meghalaya in-charge Nalin Kohli said: “The vote is basically against the Congress if you see the performance of other parties. Leaders will discuss if there can be possibility of a post poll alliance.”
The BJP has sent Himanta Biswa Sarma, one of its tallest leaders in the north-east, to the state. 49-year-old Sarma, who joined the BJP in 2015, is a minister in Assam and in-charge of the party’s poll preps in Tripura and has delivered the state to the saffron kitty. He worked in close coordination with Sunil Deodhar, BJP - National Executive Committee Member In-charge of Tripura and a man who managed PM Modi's campaign in Varanasi in 2014.
— Sunil Deodhar (@Sunil_Deodhar) March 3, 2018
Most exit polls had predicted the Congress, led by Chief Minister Mukul Sangma, will win between 13 and 20 seats. The chief minister, who was contesting from two seats, has won both Songsak and Ampati.
In Nagaland, BJP and its ally, the newly formed NDPP earlier pulled ahead. The alliance led by NDPP’s founder and former chief minister Neiphui Rio is ahead in 28 seats. Rio was elected unopposed from his constituency Northern Angami II and looks all set to be sworn in as Nagaland’s next chief minister.
Chief Minister TR Zeliang’s NPF is ahead in 26 seats in leads available currently. The BJP, which was in alliance with the NPF, broke away before the elections to partner with the NDPP.