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BJP eyes N-E polls to strengthen NDA base

Guwahati, Jan. 16: BJP is using the ensuing elections to the three northeastern states next month to “expand and strengthen” NDA’s base in the region with an eye on the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

The three states going to the polls are Tripura (February 14), Nagaland and Meghalaya (both February 23) — where the BJP is not a big player.

P. Chandrashekhar, general secretary, Northeast (organisation), told The Telegraph today that the national party was engaging with regional leaders such as Neiphiu Rio in Nagaland and P.A. Sangma in Meghalaya not to win a few seats but to achieve a larger objective — that of strengthening the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in the Northeast for bigger battles ahead.

“We need experienced and friendly hands in the Northeast so that the NDA has a strong base to challenge the Congress. If the NDA can win Delhi, the regional forces will also become strong. Yesterday, we sealed a pre-poll alliance with the ruling NPF in Nagaland and are having seat adjustments with the National People’s Party in Meghalaya and internal arrangements with strong tribal parties in Tripura,” Chandrashekhar said.

The engagement with regional parties is born out of the realisation that the BJP single-handedly cannot take on the well-entrenched Congress in the region.

Surveys have also pointed to regional forces across the country gaining at the expense of the Congress and the BJP, hence the need for the BJP to scout for pre-poll partners.

There are 25 Lok Sabha seats from the Northeast. A good result in association with the regional forces will stand the BJP-led NDA in good stead, in case things get tight.

That the BJP alone cannot take on the Congress was more than underlined in the 2011 Assembly election outcome that saw the former’s tally falling from 10 seats in 2006 to five seats.

Poll statistics revealed that the BJP could have fared reasonably well had it gone for an alliance with the AGP.

In the 2009 Lok Sabha election, the AGP-BJP combine won five of the 14 seats in Assam. Of this, BJP won four seats, its best ever showing in the state, sources said.

Chandrashekhar said the party’s central election committee would be releasing the list of candidates for the three states on January 19-20. “We are likely to contest 15 seats in Meghalaya, 22 seats in Nagaland and another 25 in Tripura.”

In Nagaland, the BJP has admitted that it was against the NPF but added that in politics anything was possible. “Politics is like a prostitute,” state BJP president M. Chuba Ao said.

The Janata Dal (United) has also formed a pre-poll alliance with the ruling Democratic Alliance of Nagaland.

The BJP had criticised the ruling NPF for rampant corruption at all levels, mishandling of Naga political issue and neglecting the backward districts like Tuensang, Mon, Kiphire and Longleng.

It had also said the demand for the “Frontier Nagaland” state by Eastern Nagaland People’s Organisation (ENPO) was the result of total negligence by the NPF government.

Ao said the three parties would draft a common minimum programme on January 21 and added that the final draft would be completed by January 30.

He said the document would include new dimensions, which would be acceptable to all three parties.