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Sunday, February 5, 2023

M’laya Polls: Acceptability Of BJP?

In Meghalaya, where state assembly elections are due next month, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a constituent in the outgoing ruling coalition led by the National Peoples’ Party (NPP), is facing tough times. State BJP leaders find themselves beyond their depth as they struggle to counter strongly negative vibes among large segments of voters, mostly generated by the functioning of their assertive BJP colleagues in neighbouring Assam. The BJP known for its strong stand against beef eating is yet to find significant political support in a state with over 80% Christian population

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In Meghalaya, where state assembly elections are due next month, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a constituent in the outgoing ruling coalition led by the National Peoples’ Party (NPP), is facing tough times. State BJP leaders find themselves beyond their depth as they struggle to counter strongly negative vibes among large segments of voters, mostly generated by the functioning of their assertive BJP colleagues in neighbouring Assam. The BJP known for its strong stand against beef eating is yet to find significant political support in a state with over 80% Christian population. Meghalaya voters are no less critical of the BJP’s proposal to implement the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the upgrading of the National Register of Citizens (NRC). In 2018, the BJP had won only 2 out of 60 seats. However, in the northeastern states, defection being a politically acceptable phenomenon, the actual strength of a party may not necessarily be reflected in the number of seats at any given time. Starting virtually from scratch to establish a foothold in the state, in 2018, the BJP in Meghalaya finds it increasingly hard to work out a convincing pre-poll campaign.

Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, whose aggressive pro-Hindutva political campaigning has helped the BJP to grow in the region, is the sole NE representative at the BJP’s apex policy-making level. He heads the party’s overall campaign strategy and planning for the NE region as a whole. Given this background, observers think the chances of Meghalaya BJP leaders securing much relief/help from central leaders’ vis-a-vis their problems with Assam are slim. Nor is it only a question of beef and related issues. Relations between the two states have been unusually frosty of late because of the killing of six Khasi tribes’ people by Assam policemen during a clash over territorial jurisdiction some time ago. The Christian church lost no time in condemning Assam for the unwarranted loss of human lives, along with criticising Sarma for what it perceived as his ‘shifting statements’. These difficulties have somewhat damaged the BJP’s poll prospects in Meghalaya.

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The unceremonious ‘ditching’ from the major partner NPP in the erstwhile ruling coalition in which the BJP was a minor ally, has left the saffron party rudderless. The state party is in a drift, not knowing how to proceed in this situation. The NPP has already announced a list of 58 candidates, while the Indian National Congress has so far put up 40. New entrant Trinamool Congress (TMC) has announced a list of 52 candidates. Its leader, former chief minister Mukul Sangma will be contesting from two seats. Despite being plagued by occasional defections, the TMC is putting up a serious campaign. West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee is scheduled to visit Meghalaya on Jan 18 and to address a public rally the same day. As for Congress, its youth leaders have been upset over what they feel to be a side-lining of the aspiring younger generation in the nomination of candidates. They have protested to their central leaders, urging them not to bypass sincere party supporters and workers who have stayed loyal to the party during its present difficult times.

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The Hills Timeshttps://www.thehillstimes.in/
The Hills Times, a largely circulated English daily published from Diphu and printed in Guwahati, having vast readership in hills districts of Assam, and neighbouring Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur.
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