Meghalaya polls: BJP tries hard to lose its anti-Christian imageLast updated on Feb 26, 2018, 08:05 am
Meghalaya's upcoming assembly polls will witness a unique quadrangular contest among BJP, Congress and regional parties United Democratic Party (UDP) and National People's Party (NPP).
However, BJP faces a tough challenge. In a state dominated by a 75% Christian population, it has to break its "hardcore Hindutva image" that Congress doesn't fail to harp on.
So, what is it planning?
Here's more about it.
First off, what are the challenges before BJP?
Before the poll campaign, Congress was branding BJP as a party that will impose Hindutva on Christians, if it comes to power.
Further, they highlighted the beef-banning controversy and attacks on missionaries/churches, mostly in Northern India, as the proof.
Recently, the Centre also denied visa to Johannesburg-based Baptist World Alliance president Ngwelda Paul Msiza for celebrating a church's 150yr anniversary in the Garo Hills.
Breaking the mould
How is BJP trying to break its image?
Now, BJP is dispelling this "myth" by merging "Hindutva" with a pro-minority face.
At a rally in Phulbari, PM Modi asserted that, "We helped rescue Kerala's 46 nurses under ISIS captivity in Iraq, Father Alex Premkumar from Afghanistan and Father Tom from Yemen."
Thus, taking a cue from him, party leaders are stressing on these instances to allay fears about BJP's "anti-Christian" stance.
BJP v/s NPP
What's more, BJP is also fighting its NDA-ally NPP
Though regional parties (UDP, NPP) are part of the BJP-led North-East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) and NPP is even a part of NDA, they aren't contesting in alliance with BJP.
This is mainly attributed to BJP's big-brotherly attitude of arm-twisting smaller allies for more seats to grow in the state and get the CM's chair.
So, BJP has fielded 47 candidates for the 60-member assembly.
But, what works in BJP's favor?
Meanwhile, what works for BJP is that the ruling Congress is facing acute anti-incumbency of a 15yr rule.
Development-wise, Meghalaya is one of India's poorest states. It doesn't boast of a single state-run engineering or medical college. Moreover, youth have negligible employment opportunities.
Basic infrastructure like roads and railways is missing, with a distance of about 50kms taking up to 7-8hrs.
So, what can be expected from the Meghalaya polls?
BJP combating Congress rhetoric on developmental issues might work. It carries the good-will of former-PM AB Vajpayee highway-building projects and PM Modi's first passenger train in 2014.
Moreover, since they are hugely dependent on central-government funds, north-eastern states normally vote for the party in power at the Centre.
So, despite no presence, BJP has a decent chance of wresting power with a post-poll alliance.