Poll year: Editorial on upcoming electoral contests in Northeast
The next parliamentary elections in India are expected to take place in 2024. The attention of India and that of the world would, quite naturally, be on their outcome. But a number of crucial electoral contests are scheduled this year as well. As many as nine states would vote in assembly polls. The results, pundits argue, need not reflect the national mood with precision. But the outcomes would still generate interest because the principal players in national politics — the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress — would be in the fray in many of these states. Inaugurating this season of polls are three states in the Northeast. Tripura will vote to bring in a new government on February 16 while Meghalaya and Nagaland would do so on February 27, with the results of all three contests being declared on March 2. The Bharatiya Janata Party, which had a negligible presence in the Northeast earlier, has been deepening its footprints in the region at a furious pace. It held Assam and, most strikingly, took Tripura and is part of the ruling alliance in Nagaland and Meghalaya. But the road to power for the BJP could be a bit of an uphill grind. In Tripura, it is expected to face the combined strength of the Congress and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) with Pradyot Kishore Debbarma’s Tipraha Indigenous Progressive Regional Alliance expected to queer the pitch further. Even in Meghalaya, the BJP’s equation with the ruling National People’s Party has become frosty. The stakes, arguably, are even higher for the Congress that is now a rump of its former self in the region. Meanwhile, if Bengal’s ruling party, the Trinamul Congress, manages to taste some success in Meghalaya, it could provide a fillip to the regional party’s ambition to play a role in Delhi. As for Nagaland, it should be anxious for a credible government as well as a combative Opposition. At the moment, in a peculiar development for a democracy, Nagaland is the only Indian state without an Opposition.
The winner in these three states would have their task cut out. The Northeast, despite being one of India’s strategic corners, continues to battle, among other challenges, underdevelopment, corruption, militancy as well as intra-border tensions. Chinese incursion in Arunachal Pradesh has added to the region’s centrality to policy. It is imperative that the elected dispensations rise above political differences to take on these hurdles for the welfare of the nation, the region, and the people.