17 - 01 - 2019

Northeast polls: Keenly watched with rapt attention

2018 assembly elections in three Northeast states—Tripura (Feb 18), Nagaland and Meghalaya (Feb 29) and the results on March 3 are being watched with rapt attention.

Why should people across the country are keen with bated breath about the 2018 Northeast assembly elections?  The reasons are obvious that the Bhartaya Janata Paraty (BJP) is all out this time to unseat the entrenched ruling parties in all the three states. It is determined to wipe out Congress Party from the very face of Northeast and certainly would be posing serious challenges even to CPI-M. The reason being CPI-M Government in Tripura, the bastion of the Left for many years, the NPF’s stranglehold over Nagaland and the Congress rule in Meghalaya irk the BJP as it has made solid imprint in about 18 states of India—never by any political party thus far.
Saffron has penetrated in most parts of India. BJP this time is bent on pitching the saffron flag in Northeast, after securing Assam from the Congress. Its grand plan is to erase its formidable rival Congress from Northeast—via NPP and two other regional alliance partners though NPP denies its alliance. In Nagaland, BJP is going to fight the elections against its own oldest ally, the ruling NPF, by fielding ex-CM Rio as the joint candidate of the fledging NDPP and BJP. In Tripura, it’s going to a direct fight between the Red and Saffron. BJP and RSS are quite serious about it. It is going to be a litmus test for the BJP and the opposing political parties. It’s interesting to note that BJP with far-right ideological tenets believes in Hindu Rashtra and to realize that BJP has been engaged in the politics of polarization, whereas the Left and the Congress believes in integration and accommodation.  The battle is clearly poised for all sorts of narratives.  
However, it’s intriguing to watch how the ensuing polls would be fought in view of the fact that Nagaland is basically a state with majority of population subscribe to Christianity; Meghalaya has a sizable Christian population and Tripura tows the line of left politics. BJP-RSS will bring to the fore and try to play its cards to woo the Christian fold with all sorts of incentives and interpretation. BJP-RSS in order to infiltrate will have to align with regional parties and also pose to the electorates that they are not antagonistic towards the Christians and minorities. In tune to this, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in its mega rally held on the 21st   projected itself as an organization which accepts diverse cultures. Targeting the population of the Northeast strategically,  the RSS categorically affirmed that they believe in diverse cultures in that mega rally that the Luitporia Hindu Samavesha, organized by RSS at Khanepara ground in Guwahati where many tribal leaders across Northeast along with BJP ministers and other dignitaries were present.  
In that rally, it has been estimated that about 40,000 RSS volunteers were present. Upon the arrival of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, RSS prayers were chanted, followed by an anthem of North Assam RSS unit was sung which means “We are the Hindu of Brahmaputra” and urged everyone to learn the practices of Sangh. He added that “The Sangh’s strength is not to scare or dominate anybody; it is for social clauses … As a nation-state we have the right to enlightenment to the struggling world. The time is rife for it. It may seem difficult and impossible to some, but with efforts and self-discipline, we can achieve these goals.”
The RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said the unbelievable as believable by highlighting the country’s diversity while concluding: “Accept and respect all diversity. This is how human life is accomplished! … Which led us to welcome more and more people; nature protected us and blessed us with abundance.”  One is awestruck by these narratives whether to believe or not! Some time ago he said that “Anybody living in India is a Hindu”. Known for far-right Hindu fundamentalism and rooted in translating India to Hindu Rashtra via Hindu nationalism suddenly switching his gears by highlighting the ethos of diversity and oneness of all evokes lots of query and suspicion. The political climate in India is such that cow slaughter and love jihad have been the popular themes of campaign for Hindutva groups for some time now along with another bogey  vis-à-vis religious conversion—has come back with vengeance and renewed vigor.  There have been spates of attack on minorities, congregations, evangelists, priests, nuns and others particularly in BJP-ruled states.
As the Assembly elections are fast approaching in the three most important states of Northeast, RSS has taken the lead and is in the forefront by soft peddling the Hindutva polity, instead blowing the concept of diversity and oneness, so that there won’t be any backlash. This is why the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat is making such narratives which would convince the electorates. BJP and RSS are known for their double talk. In order to win the three states, the BJP and RSS can go to any extent of stating lies and spreading fake news. On one side, BJP-RSS say no beef eating, now cow slaughter, majoritarianism, Hindu culture, Hindu Raj, Christmas not to be declared as a holiday, imposing one language and dress code, while on the other, Mohan Bhagwat, all of a sudden talks about “Accept and respect all diversity. This is how human life accomplished”. Alas, it’s coming out from the Chief of RSS. Shouldn’t the electorates be cautious? RSS-BJP by and large fails to walk the talk. Seldom have they walked the talk.
As against this backdrop, the three states in the Northeast are going to polls. The electorates have always been wise and matured. They make the Indian democracy stronger and functional because of their calculated and matured decisions. The beauty of democracy reflects the way the electorates elect their representatives and governments. Undoubtedly, the assembly elections in the three Northeast states would certainly be a curtain raiser, not only for the region, but for subsequent state elections that are due in other states and beyond. The results would unfold new permutations and combinations. Political parties may think that the voters tend to forget as their memory is short, but fail to recognize that the electorates vividly remember while choosing the party and candidates as they cast their votes—the good works as well unfulfilled promises. 
One should not succumb to pressures and lures at any cost nor sell their souls/conscience for paltry benefits. Votes do decide people’s destiny, their future and the type of governance they want. Rainbow Republic exhibits and thus endorses plurality, accommodation and co-existence. 


Dr. John Mohan Razu