The Bharatiya Janata Party has widened and deepened its footprint in northeastern India, gaining at the expense of the Congress. Of the 25 Lok Sabha seats here (including in Sikkim), the BJP won eight by itself. The Congress managed eight too, but it is a drop from its 2009 tally of 13. In Assam, with 14 seats, the Congress now has only three seats for a vote share of 29.6 per cent, as compared to seven in 2009. The BJP has seven seats for a vote share of 36.5 per cent: the seat figure was four in 2009. Consequent convulsions in the Congress have led to demands for Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi’s resignation. Muslims comprise some 30 per cent of the electorate, but the division of those votes between the All India United Democratic Front and the Congress, mostly benefited the BJP. The AIUDF, representing the Muslim voice, equalled the Congress’s tally of three. The BJP’s inroads into the tea garden segment in the Brahmaputra valley have been notable. The Congress, which has ruled Assam since 2001, faces issues of indiscipline and factionalism — “arrogance and complacency”, in Mr. Gogoi’s words. In Arunachal Pradesh, the Congress retained its majority in the simultaneously held Assembly elections with a vote share of 49.5 per cent. But significantly, the BJP managed to increase its tally to 11, from three in 2009, also raising its vote share from 5.21 per cent to 31. For the two Lok Sabha seats, which the Congress and the BJP shared, the BJP’s vote share was 46.1 per cent and the Congress’s, 41.2. In Nagaland, the Naga People's Front, an NDA partner, bagged the seat, beating the Congress. In Meghalaya, P.A. Sangma’s National People’s Party, another NDA constituent, defeated the Congress. Predictably, the two seats in Tripura went to the CPI(M). In a consolation for the Congress, it retained the lone seat in Mizoram, defeating the United Democratic Front, and the two seats in Manipur.
Narendra Modi’s statements on the incendiary topic of immigration from Bangladesh clearly marked a tipping point that led to a certain Hindu-vote consolidation. He even set a mid-May deadline for evictions to start. The BJP has also made known its opposition to the proposed land swap deal with Bangladesh. But inevitably, such vote-catching rhetoric will have polarising consequences. Having come to power in New Delhi, how the party handles this sensitive issue will be keenly watched. With militancy still simmering in parts of the region, a BJP government will also have to take a stand on competing demands on that front. The RSS is seen as having had a role in ensuring the BJP’s systematic push into the region, and the party has also succeeded in building up an organisational base. Without doubt, the political landscape of northeastern India is a-changing.