Assembly polls in Tripura, Meghalaya, Nagaland a test for BJP's bid to sweep region

With the announcement of dates for Assembly polls in three north-eastern states, the BJP's bid to consolidate its foothold in the region is under test.

It tasted electoral success in Assam in 2016 and managed to form a coalition government in Manipur in early 2017.

The party's energies are concentrated on Tripura, which has been under the Left Front's rule since 1993 with Manik Sarkar as chief minister for four terms. A few months ago, six Trinamool Congress legislators who had switched sides from the Congress earlier crossed over to the BJP along with a Congress MLA,

The BJP has just completed the first round of talks for an electoral alliance with the tribal outfit, Indigenous People's Front of Tripura (IPFT), which wants a separate homeland for tribals.

The architect of BJP's strategy is Assam leader and chairman of North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), Himanta Biswa Sarma. NEDA is a political coalition formed in 2016 by BJP along with regional political parties like Naga People's Front, Sikkim Democratic Front, People's Party of Arunachal, Asom Gana Parishad and Bodoland People's Front in northeast India.
Sarma is counting on a split in the votes of tribals to engineer a setback for the CPI(M) in Tripura. But the challenge comes from the Marxist party's hold over 1.5 lakh state government employees, who even pay subscription of Rs 3,000 to it.

In the last three elections, the CPI(M) got 49, 46 and 38 seats respectively in the 60-member Assembly. The Congress has been a close runner-up each time.

In Meghalaya

The BJP is working through its ally National People's Party (NPP) in Christian-majority Meghalaya, where the Congress may face a tough fight this time. Led by Mukul Sangma, the Congress recently faced a setback when five of its legislators, including former deputy chief minister Rowell Lyngdoh, resigned from the Assembly. One legislator from the United Democratic Party and two independents also resigned.

All eight joined the BJP's ally, NPP, which is led by Conrad Sangma, son of former Lok Sabha speaker Purno Sangma.

Nagaland front

In Nagaland, the state has been ruled by the Naga People's Front (NPF), whose government is headed by T R Zeliang. The BJP backs the NPF. However, the NPF is divided into three groups. Zeliang heads one faction, his predecessor Shurhozelie Liezietsu and Nagaland's lone Lok Sabha member Neiphiu Rio, the other two. Rio quit the NPF that he had revived and joined the National Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP), a new regional party, on Wednesday.

As the North-East states account for 25 Lok Sabha seats, the polls in these states are considered very important for the winning plans in the 2019 parliament elections.

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