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- BJP smashes Cong citadel

May 16: The BJP today made huge inroads in Assam and regained one of the two seats in neighbouring Arunachal Pradesh. But elsewhere in the Northeast, it was the Congress, the regional parties and the Left, which held on to their turf.

Of the 24 seats in the Northeast, the BJP won eight (seven in Assam and one in Arunachal), the ruling Congress retained both its seats in Manipur, one of the two seats in Meghalaya and the lone seat in Mizoram. However, it saw its tally fall to three from seven in Assam where the national party took a huge hit, and one of two in neighbouring Arunachal Pradesh.

The Congress had 13 seats in 2009 and the BJP only four, and all those in Assam. This time Congress is down to eight in the region.

The Left expectedly retained both its seats in Tripura, the Naga People’s Front (NPF) the lone seat in Nagaland and the P.A. Sangma-led National People’s Party the Tura seat in Meghalaya.

The Congress lost in Assam “owing to” anti-incumbency, intense infighting and inroads made by the BJP into the tea belt. “The corruption charges and lack of delivery of justice at the grassroots under the UPA also undid the Congress in Assam. It also lost the plot owing to the intense campaign by Narendra Modi, who appealed to the voters with his direct attack on illegal Bangladeshis illegally staying in Assam,” said political commentator Arupjyoti Choudhury.

BJP supporters celebrate in Guwahati on Friday. (PTI)

The attack on illegal Bangladeshi migrants also polarised the voters. The issue is an emotional one in the state. Bengali-speaking Muslims and Hindus in lower Assam and Barak valley are mostly seen as Bangladeshis illegally staying in Assam by a section in Assam. Most Bengali-speaking Muslims from these two areas seem to have moved away from the Congress to the AIUDF which won three seats, up from one in 2009, Congress insiders said, attributing the development in no small measure to the 2012 Kokrajhar riots. Like the BJP, it was also the AIUDF’s, founded in 2005, best ever show.

Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi, who said this morning that he would quit as announced before the polls if the Congress gets less than seven seats, asserted, “Everybody knows about Modi’s false propaganda. Words also spread that the BJP would send the Bangladeshis out of the state starting May 17 and we were sheltering Bangladeshis in Kaziranga. It affected us, as they are emotional issues. But the Congress will make a comeback. Nobody can stop us. We will return in 2016.” The Congress, which has suffered one of the worst poll debacles against Modi wave, managed to retain Mizoram’s lone Lok Sabha seat and also the Assembly bypoll for Hrangturzo seat in the state’s Serchhip district.

C.L. Ruala, 79, the Congress candidate, got re-elected for a second consecutive term against his nearest rival Robert Romawia Royte, 47, by a margin of 11, 371 votes despite the Modi wave. Five-time Mizoram chief minister Lal Thanhawla said the Congress’s poor show in the elections was anticipated. “Christian organisations had prayed against any communal party coming to power. Even if the Congress is defeated this time, it will surely come back to power some day,” he said.

The CPM’s strong organisational base and development in the rural belt saw the Left retain both its seats in Tripura. The outcome was never in doubt. The fight was for the second position in the Left bastion.

Like the Left in Tripura, the Congress also retained both its seats in Manipur but chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh warned party legislators of performing or facing the prospect of losing party nomination in the next polls.

The NPF is a part of the alliance the DAN. The outcome was along expected lines and Rio, like P.A. Sangma, who won his Tura seat from Meghalaya, is expected to win a berth in the Union council of ministers. The Congress’s Vincent Pala won the other seat in Meghalaya.

In Arunachal, the BJP and the ruling Congress won a seat each. However, the Congress will continue to run the state government in Arunachal having won the Assembly polls, which were held together with the Lok Sabha polls.

The highlight of the polls also included the victory of Independent Hira Sarania, who won the Kokrajhar seat by a record margin. Sarania was backed by organisations opposed to a separate Bodoland demand.

The man having the last laugh is Sarbananda Sonowal, ironically a former AGP leader, who had opposed a pre-poll alliance with the AGP, which drew a blank. Sonowal said this evening that the election result shows that the party was given a huge responsibility to work for the people and they will discharge their duty with outmost sincerity.