03 Mar 2018
How has BJP expanded its Northeast footprint?
Vote-counting is underway in North-East's poll-bound states. It is now clear that BJP will be a part of all the three governments.
Its achievement is no mean feat as only in 2013 it had forfeited its deposit in 49 of 50 seats it contested in Tripura.
In Meghalaya and Nagaland, BJP is also skilfully dealing with allies.
How did BJP manage this? We elaborate.
First off, why are these states important to BJP?
As territorial tensions with China increase, BJP is eager to expand its presence in North-East.
Further, success in Christian-dominated Meghalaya and Nagaland will help BJP counter its "Hindutva" tag.
Moreover, the eight states account for 25 LS and 14 RS seats. So in 2019, if BJP fails to repeat its 2014 performance in bigger states, it hopes to off-set that with a North-East footprint.
RSS's consistent outreach coupled with Modi-Shah's relentless focus
Notably, RSS's focus in the North-East isn't recent. It has over 6,000 units of its affiliates like ABVP, VHP etc.
Along with this, the Modi-Shah duo doggedly canvassed in the North-East.
BJP's northeast in-charge, Ram Madhav, strategically planned their tactics, commissioning surveys to understand people's ambitions and dissatisfaction.
He was also the one-point decision-maker regarding ticket distribution, alliances, advertising, social media strategy etc.
BJP co-opted leaders from other parties, allied with regional parties
As it lacks local leaders, BJP had co-opted leaders. A notable find was Congress's Himanta Biswa Sarma, whose tactical planning allowed BJP to wrest power in Assam. Tripura BJP's entire top brass is also from Congress.
Apart from this, BJP has cleverly manipulated regional parties. In Nagaland, it hasn't broken ties with NPF and has a pre-poll alliance with NDPP, keeping its options open.
Being in power at Centre, BJP can make key promises
As North-Eastern states are heavily dependent on central funds for their development, they prefer voting for the party in power at Centre.
This helped BJP make poll promises, gave it additional resources to undertake a campaign blitzkrieg and access to intelligence/security agencies, which played a key role in this insurgent-prone region.
Moreover, BJP is a challenger in North-East, with no baggage of past follies.
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Moreover, BJP adapted itself to the demands of the North-East
Finally, BJP has shown an adaptable posture in the North-East. From giving tickets to Christian candidates and giving up its beef ban agenda to building a national discourse over local issues like civil liberties and extra-judicial executions, BJP has assumed a new avatar.
Further, Congress's deterioration helped BJP's cause
Considering its limited resources after subsequent losses, Congress didn't invest in North-East and instead focused on bigger states like Gujarat and Karnataka. State units complain that financial support is almost non-existent.
Internal factionalism weighed it down. In Nagaland and Tripura, party president and working president are hardly on talking terms. This intrigue drained energy, affecting party morale.
Also, it failed to contain desertions.