The Election Commission has declared the dates for assembly elections to be held in Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura.
In a press conference on Wednesday, Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar announced that Tripura will head to polls on February 16 while Nagaland and Meghalaya will vote on February 27.
Election results will be announced on March 2. Kumar added that this decision has been taken specifically keeping school exams in mind, which usually occur in March.
Kumar also said that 50 per cent of polling booths will be webcast and polling counters will carry the constituency and booth numbers to effectively stop the dissemination of fake news.
Nagaland: peace talks at forefront
Nagaland is set to witness Assembly elections this March as its current term draws to an end. The current ruling alliance, United Democratic Alliance (UDA) comprises the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) and BJP, which was formed ahead of the 2018 elections and is still progressing well in the state.
This alliance was formed when the BJP separated from the alliance with Naga People’s Front (NPF) and joined Neiphiu Rio’s NDPP. Neiphiu Rio is the incumbent Chief Minister of Nagaland.
There is absolutely no presence of opposition in Nagaland. 21 NPF MLAs declared their support for the UDA. In 2018, the NPF secured 26 seats, the NDPP secured 18, the BJP got 12, NPP got 2, and the Janata Dal United (JDU) got 1 seat.
The BJP plans to contest 20 seats this time and extend its support to NDPP candidates in 40 other seats. The partial withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which has been a glaring issue in Nagaland over several decades, gives BJP hope that it will perform well in this election.
The issue of a separate state will also hover over this election as seven Naga tribes have been demanding for separate state, ‘Frontier Nagaland’ by carving out 16 districts of the state.
Meanwhile, Congress hopes to emerge victorious in this election. Nagaland Congress in-charge – Ranajit Mukherjee said that there is a strong anti-incumbency sentiment against the ruling UDA government for failing to conclude the Naga peace process. He alleged that the NDPP-BJP alliance deliberately stalled the implementation of a solution to the Naga political issue.
Tripura: four-corner fight
Tripura is set for the upcoming Assembly elections, with its current term ending on March 22. Although the BJP comfortably displaced the Left front out of power in the last Assembly elections, it has faced a series of challenges in the state with a number of its top leaders in the state switching over to other parties.
The CPI(M) has announced an alliance with Congress, in hopes to regain some of its lost ground, similar to the one it formed in West Bengal Assembly elections in 2021. Besides the ruling BJP and erstwhile political powerhouse in the state, CPI(M), other regional parties hold a considerable impact on the electoral politics of the state.
Tipraha Indigenous Progressive Regional Alliance, also known as TIPRA or Tipra Motha, is one party, which has remained mostly out of the political spotlight, can make quite an impression in this election.
Pradyot Kishore Debbarman led TIPRA to victory after defeating the BJP as well as the CPI(M) in the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council elections held in April 2021.
The tribal areas of Tripura are of key importance as 20 out of the total of 60 seats are dominated by them. The discourse of Greater Tipraland is most likely to dominate this election. ‘Greater Tipraland’ is a separate statehood demand, which seeks to carve out tribal areas of Tripura.
The TMC will also contest the elections without any alliance. Although the party increased its vote share in the 2021 civic polls majorly, there remains a lack of organizational structure and local leadership.
Meghalaya: at the crossroads
Meghalaya is bound for Assembly elections with its term drawing to an end in mid-March. The National People’s Party (NPP) led by Conrad Sagma is set to lock horns with the BJP, TMC and Congress for the upcoming election.
Meghalaya has seen an uncanny political alliance where five MLAs from the Congress pledged their support for the ruling coalition with the BJP and NPP. However, the NPP has declared that it will be contesting the upcoming polls alone.
The BJP has seen favorable outcomes recently, with two NPP, one Congress and one independent joining the party. The party hopes to expand its base in Meghalaya further in the coming election.
The Congress is in a very poor condition in Meghalaya, as the TMC swept in 12 MLAs from the Congress along with former chief minister and six-time MLA Mukul Sangma. Hence, from having no electoral record, the TMC became the principal Opposition in the state.
The TMC hopes to perform well in the upcoming polls as TMC leaders Mamata Banerjee and Abhishek Banerjee pay their second visit to the state. The visit comes at the heel of the resignation of 3 MLAs out of the 12. One went to the BJP while the other 2 MLAs defected to the NPP.
Although Mukul Sagma is a big influential political figure from the Garo hills and the Leader of Opposition, it will be an uphill battle for TMC because of its apparent image as a Bengali party where tribal locals have had a strained relationship with the Bengali community.