Of the three northeastern states, the elections in Meghalaya and Nagaland were under critical watch from across the country, as the stance and approach of the electorates in these two states were completely unpredictable. However, the massive campaign that BJP unleashed in Tripura aroused a high level of curiosity, since Modi virtually staked his prestige on the outcome. Modi visited the three states at least 40 times. His lieutenant Amit Shah camped here. Besides, almost all the BJP chief ministers descended in Tripura and addressed public rallies. There was no dearth of resources and manpower. It would not be wrong to say that the party failed to gain as much leverage as it had wanted to. It could also not be claimed that BJP emphatically won the Tripura Assembly elections and the results underscored the continuity of momentum. The results underlined that the party has lost its support base in the state, notwithstanding the RSS putting in its best efforts to mobilise and motivate people in support of the BJP. The saffron party’s seat tally came down from 36 five years ago to 32. A significant point of concern for the ruling party will be its vote share declining from 43.59 percent to 38.97 percent.
The Tripura election result has one more important message for the BJP and especially for the opposition, that the tribals, not only in Tripura but also in the other two states, no longer extended their wholehearted support to BJP. The election results of Tripura send a candid message that the tribals do not endorse the politics of Modi and the RSS, despite their attempt to identify themselves with their aspirations. In Meghalaya, too, the tribals and indigenous people have been quite hostile towards BJP. The reason was the consistent emphasis of its national leaders on imposing the Uniform Civil Code (UCC), PFI ban, passing of the Cattle Protection Act, calling for specific policy measures for slowing down minority population growth or bulldozing of “illegal” villages. In Nagaland, the NDPP-BJP alliance increased its tally from 29 to 37 and is set to form the government. Neiphiu Rio will return as CM for a fifth term. The increase in the alliance’s tally is largely on account of the NDPP’s growth at the expense of the Naga People’s Front (NPF) which managed to win only two seats. The BJP — which contested 20 seats as part of the seat-sharing arrangement — won 12, the same as last time, and its vote share increased from 15.31 percent to 18.8 percent. Nevertheless, this increase is purely attributed to the groundwork of RSS.
In the milieu of BJP leaders too busy with eulogizing Modi and projecting him as the New Avatar, one thing that has not been getting enough attention is the emergence of Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma as the most powerful leader of the NE region. This would no doubt create many problems for the RSS and BJP leaders, who have been working in the region for a long time. He is a go-getter and would not hesitate to override those working against him, whether outside or within the BJP-RSS ecosystem. He has emerged as the party’s dealmaker, flying every day to the three states of the northeast to take stock of the campaigning and finalise the strategy. It was he who brokered the deal in Nagaland.