| Nitin Gadkari being felicitated by residents from the Northeast in New Delhi on Monday. Picture by Rajesh Kumar |
New Delhi, Nov. 25: “Brotherly yours,” is how the BJP addressed the Northeast diaspora in Delhi with an apparent eye on the region. Launching a broadside against the Congress and UPA government, former party president Nitin Gadkari said for the BJP, the Northeast was a top priority.
Tangled in the mesh of its Hindutva image, the state unit started the programme with a prayer by a pastor, followed by an Assamese devotional song and a Naga song.
It is the Congress that is communal, not the BJP, Gadkari claimed. He said the Congress is only maligning the BJP’s image by saying, “Dekho kat dalenge, Pakistan bhej denge (The BJP will massacre, send you to Pakistan).”
Gadkari said the party has already finished writing a chapter on the Northeast in the BJP’s vision document. “Please vote for BJP. Brotherly yours,” an appeal from Delhi’s chief ministerial candidate Vijay Goel said.
Within five years — if the BJP comes to power at the Centre – the socio-economic scenario in the Northeast will change, Gadlkari said. Referring to Narendra Modi’s leadership but including Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s skills in Madhya Pradesh, Gadkari more than once alluded to the agriculture growth and GDP growth rates in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh.
Connectivity is a major problem for the region and the BJP would make sure subsidies are granted for purchasing aircraft and deferred payment facilities made available for construction of roads, Gadkari said, pitching for the 2014 polls. Although the appeal was to be made to vote for Harsh Vardhan and the BJP in Delhi, the party treated the platform as a message to the people back home. Knowing the popularity of former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, Gadkari reminded how infrastructure in the Northeast had come up during the NDA’s tenure.
Another emotive issue, illegal immigration, also found mention. The UPA wants to let “foreign nationals” come in and vote for the Congress, Gadkari alleged.
In Assam, Manipur and Nagaland, the issue of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants — as Bengali-speaking Muslims are known in the region — is harped on by the BJP.
“It is a big issue in our region and over the last few years the BJP has gained a lot of support,” said Manipur state unit leader Col C. Joyraj Singh, who claimed that Modi is known and popular among people in the Northeast.
There are nearly 25,000 northeastern voters in Delhi spread across 13 constituencies. Although the voters are few, party sources said that the almost two lakh students from the region could be ambassadors for the party in the national capital and back home.
With a forum of regional parties coming up recently and having won the support from former Lok Sabha Speaker Purno A. Sangma, the BJP is warming up to regional powers to reinvent itself for 2014.