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25 Lok Sabha constituencies : BJP’s do-or-die battle against Congress in North East

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By Bhupen Goswami

Guwahati : Of the 25 Lok Sabha constituencies in the northeast ,The Bharatiya Janata Party has embarked on a do-or-die battle to win as many of the seats as it can in eight northeastern states. For its part, the Congress party has set off a determined attempt to regain its lost ground in the region. Some political forecasters in the northeast feel that since all the eight states in the region are now ruled either by the BJP or its allies, the saffron party holds the advantage. However, other political analysts are of the opinion that the stiff opposition to the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 in the entire northeastern region – home to 45.58 million people as per the 2011 census – could upset the BJP’s bid to win the targeted number of seats. Assam’s 14 constituencies will see polling in three phases on April 11 , 18 and 23.

Manipur and Tripura, which have two seats each, will vote in two phases, on April 11 and 18. Meghalaya (two seats), Nagaland (one), Arunachal Pradesh (two), Mizoram (one) and Sikkim (one) will go to the polls on April 11. In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) allies, including Naga People’s Front (1), Meghalaya’s National Peoples’ Party (1) and the Sikkim Democratic Front (1), together won 11 seats with the dominant party bagging 8 seats. The BJP had won 7 seats in Assam and 1 in Arunachal Pradesh. The Congress, which since 1952 has had a stronghold in the northeast, also managed eight seats in 2014 — 3 in Assam, 2 in Manipur and 1 each in Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Mizoram. Five years ago, the Assam-based All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) won 3 seats while the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) secured 2 seats in Tripura. Independent candidate Naba Kumar Sarania (Hira) won from Assam’s Kokrajhar constituency. Political analyst Samudra Gupta Kashyap observed that the scenario in the Northeast was heavily tilted in favour of the BJP and its allies.

While Neiphiu Rio’s Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (in Nagaland) and Zoramthanga’s Mizo National Front (in Mizoram) would obviously not leave the lone seats in Nagaland and Mizoram to the saffron party, it would be difficult to convince Conrad K. Sangma’s National Peoples’ Party (NPP), a member of the North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), to share even one of the two seats in Meghalaya. The tribals, who constitute 27-28 per cent of the population in the northeast, always play a significant role in the politics of the mountainous region. “The state governments have limited power on migrant and infiltration issues. Meghalaya and other northeastern states tried to enact acts to deal with these issues but subsequently retreated when the constitutional experts expressed views against such moves. “Growing unemployment might be a crucial issue for the youth of the northeastern region. Unlike other states in the country, the ethnic identity issue is a vital concern in the electoral politics of the northeast. The identity of northeast is somewhat different from other regions of the country,” political observed told Media persons. Of the 25 Lok Sabha constituencies in the northeast, two seats, one each in Nagaland and Meghalaya, are lying vacant after Neiphiu Rio and Conrad K. Sangma became the chief ministers of the two states, respectively. The resource-rich region shares borders with China, Myanmar, Bhutan and Bangladesh and has trade ties with some of these countries, especially Bangladesh and Myanmar.

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