3 north-eastern states go to polls

Tripura, Meghalaya and Nagaland will go to polls from February 16, with the results scheduled for March 2. The BJP has an uphill task this time.

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By Chanakya

There are nine state assembly elections lined up for this year, building up to next year’s general elections. The polls kick off on February 16 with Tripura, Meghalaya and Nagaland going to the polls. Results will be out on March 2. These elections will provide a very good picture on the mood of the country, building up to the general elections, hence they gain great importance.

Tripura polls

Tripura is a BJP-riled state, but this time arch rivals Congress and the CPI(M) have joined hands and have come to a seat sharing agreement so that votes are not divided. It is being said – Union home minister Amit Shah alleged that from a poll platform – that the Tipraha Indigenous Progressive Regional Alliance (Tipra) Motha Party has also joined hands with this alliance. If so, then that seat sharing issue will clash with the Cong-CPM arrangement.

As of now the BJP has fielded 55, the highest number of candidates for the 60-seat assembly. CPM has fielded 43, TIPRA Motha 42, and Congress 13.

Votes will be divided a bit if the Trinamool Congress (TMC) insists on its separate stature. TMC has fielded 28 candidates, but if one goes by its position in the last municipal elections, TMC may not stand a chance, though some votes will surely go their way, vites that may have benefited the Cong-CPM alliance.

Others in fray are BJP ally IPFT (6) and CPI, RSP, Forward Bloc with one candidate each.

The BJP manifesto promises jobs, AIIMS-like facilities in hospitals, pay matrix of the 7th Pay Commission, hiking monthly social pension to Rs 2,000, providing houses to 3.8 lakh families, drinking water to 53 per cent households and others.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while addressing his second rally on February 11 at Radhakishorepur district in Tripura, accused the Congress-Left alliance of looting the state for years and forcing people to live in poverty. “The dreams of the poor, tribal communities, women and youth of Tripura were shattered by the Left and Congress regimes. They forced the people to leave Tripura. Even getting electricity and water was like chewing iron gram,” he said.

He talked about the BJP initiatives in the last five years which included increasing social allowance to Rs 2,000, and coming up with a special savings scheme for women. He said: “You should ensure that each and every single vote in Tripura should go to the BJP. Your vote holds immense value, and the right choice will take Tripura to newer levels of development and prosperity.”

He added: “Old players of misgovernance have joined hands for ‘chanda’ (donation). Those fighting ‘kushti’ (wrestling) in Kerala have done ‘dosti’ (friendship) in Tripura.”

Modi added: “The opposition wants to divide the votes. Some small ‘vote-cutter’ parties are waiting for the election results, hoping to get their price. Those out with dreams of horse-trading, lock them in their homes now itself.”

The CPM was in power in the north-eastern state for five consecutive terms till the last election in 2018. Congress has been outside power for 35 years.

The Congress manifesto promises old pension scheme for government employees, 50,000 new jobs, increase in wages of agricultural labourers and free 150 units of electricity, if the party is voted to power. Senior leader and lone party MLA Sudip Roy Barman said a 20-point programme has been chalked out keeping in mind the welfare of poor and middle class people.

The TMC manifesto promises to provide two lakh jobs in five years, with 50,000 jobs in the first year itself.  

Meghalaya elections

The tenth Meghalaya legislative assembly is going to end on March 15 and the elections will be held on February 27. The assembly has 60 assembly seats.

In the 2018 elections Congress was the largest party with 21 seats but fell short of the majority mark. The BJP (which had won only 2 seats) went on to support the NPP (19) and formed government. Sangma became the CM.

Trinamool Congress, Congress and National People’s Party NPP have also declared a list of all 60 candidates while the United Democratic party UDP has announced a total number of 45 candidates including 15 from Garo Hills. The Congress had nominated 10 women in the list of 55 candidates.

Meghalaya Pradesh Congress Committee president and MP Vincent H. Pala said the party would not hold mega rallies or bring in star campaigners despite about 80% of the candidates being fresh faces. Congress also announced a slew of measures, such as minimum support price for ginger, turmeric, broomstick, black pepper and other agricultural products, as well as free health care services and 200 units of free power to each household belonging to the below poverty line category.

Releasing the manifesto senior party leader Jairam Ramesh said that the BJP was endangering Meghalaya’s cultural and independent identity. He further said that the promise to offer free education to all girls in Meghalaya from kindergarten through class XII will go a long way towards enabling girls to realise their potential.

“Around Rs 500 crore would be provided as corpus funds for building infrastructure for religious gatherings,” Ramesh said.

The BJP has gone into damage control mode after a RSS-backed organisation in adjoining Assam launched a drive for stripping indigenous people who undergo a religious conversion of their Scheduled Tribe (ST) status.

In Meghalaya’s capital Shillong, the BJP dismissed the perception that it was anti-Christian. “The Opposition parties take this line of attack during every election when they have nothing else to say against us. The BJP is not against the church but against those who are anti-India,” BJP national general secretary Rituraj Sinha told journalists.

Nagaland polls

A total of 183 candidates are in the fray for 59 seats of the Nagaland assembly, and of them, only four are women, Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) V Shashank Shekhar said.

The ruling NDPP is fighting the elections on 40 seats, the BJP is fighting on 20 seats, the Congress on 23 seats, while the NPF is contesting on 22 seats.

A total of 13,16,064 voters are eligible to exercise their franchise in the February 27 elections.

The LJP (Ram Vilas) is fighting the polls on 15 seats, NPP and NCP on 12 each, RPI (Athawale) on nine seats, JD(U) on seven seats, RJD on three seats, and the CPI and Rising People’s Party are fighting one seat each. There are also 19 Independent candidates.

In the last election in 2018 Naga People Front won 26 seats, nationalist Democratic party 18 seats, BJP 12 seats, Nationalist People’s Party 2 seats and the other parties like JDU 11 seat and one seat were allotted to independents.