BJP’s Neda faces bumps in Cong-mukt plan
The North East Democratic Alliance (Neda), which was floated by the ruling BJP with the aim of making the region Congress-free, is facing a hurdle as most of its constituents have decided to fight the Lok Sabha elections alone, except in Assam and Nagaland.
Most BJP insiders feel the decision not to field the Neda convener and Assam minister Himanta Biswa Sarma in the April polls could be because of the setbacks the party was facing from its own allies with whom it had unseated all Congress-led governments in the region.
The most ambitious of the Neda constituents has been the National People’s Party (NPP). The NPP, led by Meghalaya chief minister Conrad K. Sangma, has decided to field candidates in all 25 seats in the region, a move which could make the BJP’s Mission 21 a tough ask.
The 25 Lok Sabha seats in the region include 14 in Assam, two each in Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Manipur and Tripura and one each in Sikkim, Nagaland and Mizoram.
Conrad, who was hailed by people across the region for his role against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, said here in a recent meeting that his party would work for a united Northeast with like-minded political parties to make its presence felt in the region.
The party has already announced the names of candidates for five seats in Assam.
However, a section within the BJP feels the NPP fielding candidates in all 25 seats would only help the BJP in multi-cornered contests and stop the votes from going to the Congress which, like the NPP, is flagging the bill card. “With the Neda convener not contesting the polls, we are optimistic about achieving our target,” a BJP insider said.
The Sikkim Democratic Front, another Neda constituent, led by Sikkim chief minister Pawan Kumar Chamling, has also decided to contest the elections alone. The BJP’s first list on Thursday named Laten Tshering Sherpa as its candidate for the lone Sikkim seat.
Neda’s constituent in Mizoram — the Mizo National Front — had announced former director-general of Doordarshan C. Lalrosanga as its candidate for the Mizoram seat, saying the party would not join hands with anyone. The BJP on Thursday named Nirupam Chakma for the seat.
The BJP also named Rebati Mohan Tripura for the Tripura East (ST) constituency and Pratima Bhowmik for Tripura West. Its alliance partner, Indigenous Peoples Front of Tripura (IPFT), has announced party president and state revenue minister Narendra Chandra Debbarma for Tripura East and youth leader Shukla Charan Noatia for Tripura West. The IPFT was not happy with the BJP as it allegedly did not respond to its request to leave the East Tripura, an ST-reserved constituency, for the regional party.
Similar is the case in BJP-ruled Manipur, where it announced K.K. Ranjan Singh for Inner Manipur parliamentary constituency and H. Shokhopao Mate for the Outer Manipur seat.
BJP national president Amit Shah had tweeted on Thursday evening that the central leadership had to reject the Assam election committee’s suggestion to field Sarma from Tezpur because the party wished him to shoulder the responsibility of the Neda along with concentrating on the development of the Northeast and maintaining communication with the party and the Centre.
“I humbly accept your decision,” Sarma replied to Shah, adding that the people of the Northeast would not “disappoint” him when the country’s spirit is high on making Narendra Modi the Prime Minister again.