- Leads at 4:00 pm: Conrad Sangma's party ahead in Meghalaya (25/59), BJP+ leads in Nagaland (36/60), Tripura (33/60), according to NDTV
- TRIPURA: So far BJP+ leads 33 seats, Left+ 14, Tipra Motha 13 and Others 0
- Tripura CM Manik Saha wins Town Bardowali seat by 1,257 votes, reports PTI
- NAGALAND: So far NDPP+ leads 36 seats, NPF 2, Congress 0 and Others 22
- NDPP's Hekhani Jakhalu wins Dimapur-III seat by 1,536 votes, becoming first woman to be elected to Nagaland Assembly, reports PTI
- MEGHALAYA: So far NPP leads 25 seats, Cong 5, BJP 4, TMC 5, UDP 10 and others 10
- Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma was leading in the South Tura seat by a margin of 508 votes, reports PTI
Thursday’s results will decide the political fate of 611 candidates in the poll fray in the three northeastern states of Tripura, Meghalaya and Nagaland. But, perhaps more importantly, it would also set the course for the mood of the electorate to solidify in some of the bigger states like Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Telangana as also Mizoram which are all set to go to the hustings later this calendar year.
And that’s precisely why the stakes are as high for the BJP which is currently ruling all three states either directly or through electoral alliances with regional parties under the umbrella platform of North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), the regional counterpart of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), as it is for the Opposition parties to once again toy with the idea of a "united Opposition" which some taste of success in these polls could rekindle hopes of.
Traditionally speaking, with possibly the sole exception of Tripura where the Left held power till 2018, the ruling party in the Centre has always been at the heart of government formations in the entire north-east which has remained dependent on loosened purse strings of the Union government. Even Tripura followed suit in 2018 when the Biplab Deb-led BJP forced a crushing defeat on the 25-year rule of Manik Sarkar by gaining a simple majority of 36 out of 60 Assembly seats.
The sway that the Congress had in the region by dint of its holding power in the Centre simply shifted to the BJP even as the political map of the country began changing in 2014.
That said, there are multi-layered issues, local factors and complexities that doubtless influence the outcome of the polls in these three states, two of which – Tripura and Meghalaya – share international borders with Bangladesh and Nagaland with Myanmar.
The BJP, though, has a lot to take heart from the exit poll figures which have largely predicted its return in Tripura and Nagaland and have foretold that its coalition partner, the Conrad Sangma-led National People’s Party (NPP), is likely to retain power in Meghalaya.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these states.
Tripura Assembly elections
Tripura looks to be the only state where the incumbent BJP is up for some real challenge from the Left-Congress alliance on one hand and the newly-formed Pradyot Manikya-led tribal platform Tipra Motha on the other. Although there were perceptions of the ruling dispensation facing strong anti-incumbency, most pollsters have predicted a simple majority for BJP and its ally, the IPFT. But only just.
One of the pollsters, ETG Research which collaborated with Times Now, has even predicted a maximum of 27 seats for the BJP+ combination which would make it fall short of the simple majority by 4 seats in the 60-member Assembly.
The poll of polls, which makes an average of the figures brought out by the individual pollsters, awards 33 seats to BJP+ which is only two seats more than the halfway mark.
If BJP makes it in Tripura, the party can certainly claim credit for its move to replace the politically naïve Biplab Deb with Maniuk Saha for the state’s top job in May last year to overcome anti-incumbency sentiments.
If it doesn’t, the scion of the erstwhile Tripura royal family Pradyot Manikya Debbarma, could definitely emerge as the kingmaker for the state, albeit with a strong bargaining chip for separate statehood for the tribal population of the state. Most pollsters have predicted 12-14 seats for the Motha.
Meghalaya Assembly elections
The poll of exit polls has predicted that Conrad Sangma’s NPP would emerge as the single largest party in the state with 20 seats in the 60-member Assembly. The Trinamul Congress could bag 11 seats while the BJP and Congress are likely to finish third with six seats each.
Like in 2018, if the Christian-majority state ends up with a fractured mandate the real game would begin in stitching up post-poll alliances similar to what happened in the previous occasion.
With the relationship between the NPP and the local BJP souring over the last few years, it would be interesting to see if the incumbent chief minister Conrad Sangma looks at newer political pastures for a rainbow alliance.
Nagaland Assembly elections
Almost all pollsters have predicted a clean sweep for the BJP-NDPP alliance in Nagaland with some awarding the coalition as many as 48 out of the 60 seats.
Although the BJP has remained a secondary player in the Nagaland government piggybacking on the Neiphiu Rio-led National Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP), a relatively new regional entity, the national partner is certainly looking to increase its electoral footprint in the state and eating into the political space of its regional partner.
With sensitive agendas like the Naga peace talks still very much alive, it would be a tightrope walk for the BJP in this Christian-majority state despite facing no real challenge from the political opposition.
Net net, except for Nagaland, scopes are still wide open for interesting post-poll alliances to emerge in both Tripura and Meghalaya. One only needs to wait and observe which way the political winds are blowing.