Issue :   
April 2018 Edition of Power Politics is updated.         April 2018 Edition of Power Politics is updated.
Issue:Apr' 2018

FRANKLY SPEAKING

Disquieting signals post-BJP victory in North-East

Has Manik Sarkar-type honesty no place in politics ?

Hari Jaisingh

Manik Sarkar After the BJP's triumph in three North-Eastern States of Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya, it has suffered a big shock by losing two parliamentary byelections – Gorakhpur and Phulur – UP as well as one in Araria, Bihar. These loses mean a lot for the saffron party which is dependent on a sweep of the north and West of India for its success in 2019. This setback follows after the BJP's humiliating by-poll defeats recently not only in Ajmer and Alwar in Rajasthan but

Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati The success of SP-BSP alliance also in Madhya Pradesh and Punjab . UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath blames "overconfidence" for the poor show. But, I would blame the growing signs of arrogance among powerpuffed BJP leaders, both at the Centre and in the States. This is surely not a happy sign as the party is getting alienated from the masses and ground realities.

Sunil Deodhar Coming back to the North-East, I shall single out for commendation the way the BJP has managed to demolish the Tripura citadel of the Left Front government nurtured and nourished by Manik Sarkar for over two decades. It has a parallel in Mamata Banerjee's feat in West Bengal where the Trinamool Congress Chief put a full stop to the Leftist record of running the state for seven consecutive terms. Manik Sarkar's Marxist establishment was voted out after 25 years.

Himanta Biswa Sarma How come Manik Sarkar lost power despite his individual reputation of being an honest Chief Minister? Has honesty no place in India's new money-flushed electoral politics? Well, personal honesty may or may not be an asset in politics, but bad governance is certainly not. Having no house of his own (he has taken shelter in the CPM party office in Tripura) and a bank balance of Rs 2,410 and cash possession of Rs 1,520, Sarkar was also known to be a tough task master. He could manage to rid his state of militancy. But his problems began when his establishment was confronted by corruption in the form of Rose Valley chit fund scam. Another charge that went against him was his non-performance on the development front despite the state's rich natural resources like gas, bamboo and rubber.

Madhave acknowleding the greetings of BJP supporters. And this is where Narendra Modi, the BJP's Master Magician, struck a chord. During his four rallies during the poll campaign, he promised a new dawn of parivartan (change) by building highways, railways and airways which could provide jobs to thousands of jobless youngsters. I keep my fingers crossed on Prime Minister Modi's promises and action on the ground. Much will depend on how new Chief Minister Bipal Kumar Deb goes about his job.
The problem of unemployment apart, one issue which tilted the scale in the BJP's favour was its promise to implement the 7th Pay Commission in a state which still pays salaries to government servants on the basis of the 4th Pay Commission. This means if a government servant gets Rs 20,000 under the 4th commission, it will increase to at least Rs 35,000 under the 7th commission. The BJP's Vision Document for the state had prominently highlighted this promise which would benefit thousands of government workers.

It must be said that the BJP leadership was working intelligently for the past two-three years in tune with the RSS's long-term North-East agenda to make the BJP politically and strategically the most dominant force in the region. The key person on this job was Sunil Deodhar, former RSS pracharak. I know of a number of young RSS-BJP associates visiting the North-Eastern states to work quietly at the grassroots among the tribals and general public. Deodhar himself has worked as an RSS pracharak in the North East for 11 years. Then, the youthful state chief of the BJP, Biplab Kumar Deb, picked up by Deodhar, has been working for the party from 2016.
According to RSS insiders, over the past two years, the Sangh work in Tripura was considerably intensified.
From 60 shakhas around the 2014 elections, the RSS now runs 265 shakhas in the state and as many as 15,000 to 20,000 are said to be attending the shakha events. Another person who has played a vital role in the BJP success was Ram Madhav, the party's general secretary.
Yet another stalwart worth mentioning for the BJP's penetration in the region is Himanta Biswa Sarma, an ex- Congress, who, as convener of the BJPled North-East Democratic Alliance. He had played a crucial role in the making of BJP governments in Assam, Manipur

What is important for Prime Minister Modi is to see the problems in totality and muster enough political will to deliver on the ground what he and his party have promised to the people.

Lenin's statue destroyed in Tripura after the BJP's victory

Vandalised Periyar statue in Vellore |

I do not approve of the razing of Lenin's statue in Agartala by BJP supporters celebrating their assembly poll win in Tripura. Equally painful are the vandalisation of the CPM office in Bishalgarh near Agartala and blackening the statue of Shyama Prasad Mukherjee in Kolkata. In Tamil Nadu, Periyar statue was vandalized after a BJP leader's Facebook post.

Protest against razing Lenin's statue in Tripura, and Arunachal Pradesh. In Tripura, he was able to stitch the BJP's tie-up with the tribal outfit of the Indigenous People's Front of Tripura (IPFT). The BJP actually managed a strategic balancing act to muster tribal vote by tying up with the IPFT while appeasing Bengali voters by being non-committal about a separate tribal state. The gamble has paid off for the present. Who cares for tomorrow? Interestingly, Tripura is home to 19 tribes that constitute 31 per cent of the population. Of the 59 constituencies, the BJP and its tribal ally IPFT has grabbed 43 seats. The BJP had secured 1.54 per cent votes in the 2013 assembly poll. This time it has got over 43 per cent of the votes in the 51 seats it contested. The Congress has failed to win even a single seat in Tripura and Nagaland, thanks to its lackluster poll campaigning and the casual approach to politics by its new chief Rahul Gandhi.
The BJP's performance in Nagaland has been the best since it started contesting the poll in this state in 2013. It has won 12 of 20 seats it contested this time. It has severed its 15-year-old ties with T R Zeliang's Naga People's Front (NPF) and opted to go along with Neiphiu Rio's Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) which has bagged 17 seats in the 60-member Assembly. With 27 seats the NPF has, however, emerged as the single largest party in the Assembly polls. Nagaland has its own personalized ambitions, tribal tilts and the Church factor. In fact, Nagaland politics has never followed a straight line.

Mercifully, the Prime Minister has expressed strong disapproval of "toppling of statues". Let us hope that better sense would prevail among the BJP's members who see their poll victory in a narrow Hindutva perspective, and not in a democratic spirit of tolerance, mutual understanding and mutual respect !.

Prime Minister Modi in Naga attire In Meghalaya, the Congress has managed to win 21 of 60 seats, conceding 19 to the National People's Party. Though the BJP has won just two seats in the state, it has greater manoeuvering capability to put the State under its umbrella in the changed political setting in the North East.
Be that as it may. The North East verdict gives the BJP a big boost for the 2019 elections. This will help the saffron party to project itself as a party ready to accommodate diverse communities divided on ethnic identity lines for its larger national agenda. This also dilutes the criticism of the BJP as a Hindi heartland party as it gets set to deepen its presence in the South, especially in Karnataka and Kerala.
Looking beyond, Prime Minister Modi has now a historic opportunity to make the North East a new gateway to the much-promised "Look East" to "Act East". The region is rich in resources, but low in density of population. The area has, therefore, attracted outsiders, including illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. The country has paid a heavy price for poor housekeeping, the lack of vision and political will.
A close look at history will show how some leaders have betrayed the nation's cause for their petty vote bank politics. In fact, the drift in critical areas in the region has been part of the politicized non-governance and insensitivity to burning issues facing the nation. As a nation, we have to wake up to the overall gravity of problems in the region.
What is important for Prime Minister Modi is to see the problems in totality and muster enough political will to deliver on the ground what he and his party have promised to the people. Much will depend on how the Prime Minister conducts himself in managing North-East affairs. He has to see the region in a broad liberal perspective, and not in narrow Hindutva angularities in the name of cow protection or denial of freedom to voices of dissent.
Viewed in this light, I do not approve of the razing of Lenin's statue in Agartala by BJP supporters celebrating their assembly poll win in Tripura. Equally painful are the vandalisation of the CPM office in Bishalgarh near Agartala and blackening the statue of Syama Prasad Mukherjee in Kolkata. In Tamil Nadu, Periyar statue was vandalized after a BJP leader's facebook post.
This is not the way the BJP should fight its ideological battles against the Left and all shades of its political opponents. Ideological differences have to be viewed as a battle of ideas, and not vandalism.
Mercifully, the Prime Minister has expressed strong disapproval of "toppling of statues". Let us hope that better sense would prevail among the BJP's members who see their poll victory in a narrow Hindutva perspective, and not in a democratic spirit of tolerance, mutual understanding and mutual respect !