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After Assam win, BJP's new alliance looks to make inroads into Northeast

Sadiq Naqvi | Updated on: 28 May 2016, 21:35 IST
QUICK PILL
The alliance
  • On the day the BJP govt in Assam was sworn-in, party president Amit Shah announced a new alliance
  • Himanta Biswa Sarma is the convenor of this Northeast Democratic Alliance
The vision
  • The alliance aims to include the regional parties in all the Northeastern states under its umbrella
  • It wants defeat the Congress in the three states it holds power in, as well as the Left in Tripura
More in the story
  • Why the alliance could be advantageous for the Northeast
  • Why Sarma is the right man to lead the alliance

On a high after its spectacular win in Assam, the BJP is now looking to expand its footprint in the rest of the Northeast.

The recently-announced Northeast Democratic Alliance "is a big step in that direction", a key strategist of the party in the Northeast says.

Read- BJP forms anti-Congress block in Northeast with Himanta Biswa Sarma as convenor

Clinching the Assembly elections in Manipur, just about nine months away, is one of the key immediate political objective of this new alliance. It is also being seen as an important part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's 'Act East' policy.Himanta Biswa Sarma has been appointed as the convener of the alliance, which is said to be the brainchild of party president Amit Shah and the party's Assam in-charge, Ram Madhav.

Objective of the alliance

The alliance, which was announced by Shah on the day the new government took oath in Guwahati, plans to bring together regional parties to counter the Congress.

The Congress is in power in three states, while Tripura, another important part of the 'Seven Sisters', has a Left Front government.

The Congress is in power in three states in the Northeast, while Tripura is ruled by the Left

Shah, tweeting about the development, pointed out how the chief ministers of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Sikkim had proposed to join the Alliance. "The all-round development of the Northeast and better co-ordination among the states and Central government" is its main objective.

"The objective is to have an anti-Congress alliance in the Northeast for a better future," the strategist says, while adding how this is part of the party's plan for a Congress-mukt Northeast.

Unified vision

Professor Nani Gopal Mahanta, an academic at Guwahati University who was involved in the BJP's campaign strategy in Assam, thinks it is a smart move. "This political strategy of a unified vision of the Northeast will help the party. All the states have been carved out of Assam, and they treat the biggest state as a big brother," Mahanta points out.

Another senior BJP leader in Assam says it is on the lines of the Congress's Northeast Congress Coordination Committee. "The whole of the Northeast sends around 25 MPs to Delhi. If the Congress can be demolished here, it will be a death blow, since it is anyway losing ground in other parts of the country," the leader says.

"In Nagaland, you have the Naga People's Front; in Manipur, there is the Manipur People's Party; in Mizoram, there is the Mizo National Front. If all these regional players come in the fold of the alliance, things will become very difficult for the Congress," he says.

The key man

Sarma, who was appointed as the convenor of this alliance, has a lot of experience in dealing with regional players. "He was instrumental in bringing the Congress back to power in Manipur, where he was the observer," says Mahanta.

Also read- BJP storms to power in Assam. Here's the man who made it possible

He says Sarma also had a role to play in the appointment of Mukul Sangma as the Chief Minister of Meghalaya, and is also close to Kalikho Pul, the Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh, who, along with other dissident Congress MLAs, formed the government, with BJP MLAs extending outside support.

"He knows the politics of the region well," Mahanta says of the man who reportedly wanted to be Deputy Chief Minister of Assam.

Part of PM's vision

Mahanta also explains how this new alliance would aid PM Modi's 'Act East' policy.

"In his recent visit to Shillong, he spelt out his impetus on the 'Act East' policy," he says, adding how power generation, connectivity and other developmental efforts could be expedited if there is a common vision for the region.

Another strategist says that the party felt a need for a better representation of the Northeast in the NDA government at the Centre.

The alliance would aid the 'Act East' policy that PM Modi spelt out on a recent visit to Shillong
"Till now, the smaller states were not able to put their points across effectively," the strategist says, explaining how this mechanism will help the states.

While the details are still at the planning stage, the alliance will soon start functioning with regular meetings.

Edited by Shreyas Sharma

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First published: 28 May 2016, 21:35 IST
 
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