The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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There are no surprises in the election results from the three northeastern states. While Tripura has predictably stayed with the Left Front yet again, the uncertain outcomes in Nagaland and Meghalaya are not unexpected either. The Congress was the only national party that made a serious bid for power in all three states. The Bharatiya Janata Party’s fights were basically for getting a toehold in the region. The results show that the Congress leadership’s hopes regarding Tripura and Nagaland were much exaggerated. In Tripura, the party’s alliance with the newly-formed tribal outfit, the Indigenous Nationalist Party of Twipra, did not quite provide a viable alternative to the Communist Party of India (Marxist). Ten long years in the opposition has put the party in complete disarray. The alliance with the INPT could hardly compensate for the party’s organizational weaknesses and its workers’ demoralization. To make matters worse for it, some campaign speeches by the INPT leader, Mr Bijoy Hrangkhawl, sent out confusing signals to large sections of voters. It is no surprise, therefore, that an overwhelming majority of the people decided to repose their trust in the leftists again rather than try out the Congress-led alliance. In so doing, they have taken a calculated risk because the Marxists’ record of tackling the state’s tribal insurgency has been dismal. The Marxists now have an even greater responsibility of weeding out the menace of militancy, which has taken a huge toll of both human lives and economic development.

In Nagaland, the Congress’s defeat can largely be attributed to the anti-incumbency factor. Although the Nagaland People’s Front has emerged as the single largest non-Congress party, it cannot form a government on its own. Even Meghalaya seems poised for another spell of unstable coalition rule, in which the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party will be post-election partners. Given recent trends in Shillong’s politics of defections, it may not be wrong to predict more horse-trading there. The people can only hope that their chosen representatives will be more responsible this time than they have been earlier. The state’s militant groups, though not as powerful as those in Tripura or Nagaland, can exploit a spell of political instability for their subversive ends. This danger is infinitely greater for Nagaland. The polls came at a crucial juncture in the peace talks between New Delhi and the National Socialist Council of Nagalim, led by Mr Isak Swu and Mr Thuingaleng Muivah. Whatever the political compulsions,the new government has to move in step with the Centre to see the peace process through.

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