The Assembly polls in four north-eastern states — Tripura, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Mizoram — in 2023 are expected to predict the electoral fortunes of the BJP, Congress and other parties in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls in the region. Though the Assembly polls and the Lok Sabha elections are fought on different issues and a dissimilar political backdrop, the Assembly polls in the four north-eastern states with six Lok Sabha seats would give a clear political signal about the outcome of the parliamentary polls. The BJP is the dominant party in the alliance government in Tripura while it was part of the coalition governments in Nagaland, Mizoram and Meghalaya respectively.
Since 1952, the north-eastern states had been a stronghold of the Congress but over the years the party lost its organisational base leading to the emergence of the BJP and several regional parties. The regional parties had emerged highlighting the local and regional issues. Due to a lack of proactive leaders and central leaders’ inactivity, the Congress gradually lost ground to the BJP and the regional parties. The fall of the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government and the emergence of the NDA government at the Centre have pushed the Congress to a defensive position.
The Congress could not succeed in effectively dealing with the insurgency, unemployment, connectivity, infrastructure development and solution of the diverse ethnic issues. The party failed to exploit even whatever good steps were taken by the Congress governments including setting up of tribal autonomous councils in several north-eastern states. There is no sign that the grand old party would revive its position in the region. If the Congress performed poorly in the Assembly elections in the four states the party would likely face further erosion and fare poorly in next year’s Lok Sabha elections.
Since 2014 hundreds of Congress leaders and MLAs from various north-eastern states have quit the party to join the BJP and other parties due to diverse reasons including internal feud, but the Central party leaders remained inactive weakening the party further. The chief ministers of five of the north-eastern states — Himanta Biswa Sarma (Assam), Manik Saha (Tripura), N Biren Singh (Manipur), Pema Khandu (Arunachal Pradesh), Neiphiu Rio (Nagaland) — are former Congress leaders and now in the BJP, running the saffron party led governments. Former Meghalaya chief minister Mukul Sangma is now with the Trinamool Congress.
Congress, which has a strong base among people belonging to diverse religions and communities, lacks leaders after many of them embraced the BJP and other parties over a period of time amid the BJP’s juggernaut. At one time the Congress governed almost all the north-eastern states, but the grand old party will now battle for survival in the election bound states of Tripura, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Mizoram. The NDA government’s massive investment and infrastructure development helped the BJP leaders to convince the people of the region that it has given top priority to the all round development of the eight north-eastern states.