BJP and allies retain power in Tripura, Nagaland; hung verdict in Meghalaya

BJP crosses the majority mark in Tripura despite a surge by newcomer TIPRA Motha Party; it maintains its tally in Nagaland and Meghalaya where NDPP and NPP emerge single-largest parties, respectively

Updated - September 28, 2023 06:10 pm IST

Published - March 02, 2023 10:45 pm IST - GUWAHATI

Tripura Chief Minister Manik Saha is garlanded by BJP supporters in Agartala on March 2, 2023.

Tripura Chief Minister Manik Saha is garlanded by BJP supporters in Agartala on March 2, 2023. | Photo Credit: PTI

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies retained power in Tripura and Nagaland, while in Meghalaya, the National People’s Party (NPP) emerged as the single largest party. The results show that voters in these northeastern States largely rejected calls for a change.

The polls in each of the three States were seen as a litmus test for the BJP with the 2024 Lok Sabha election just a year away.

The BJP and its regional ally, the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura, won 33 seats — 11 fewer than in 2018 but two more than the majority mark. The TIPRA Motha, which banked primarily on the ‘Tiprasa’ (tribal) people who dominate 20 of the 60 Assembly seats, lived up to the expectations by winning 13 of the 42 seats it contested.

The outcome was a setback for the Left Front, which saw its seat count dip to 11 from 16 five years ago. But the Congress gained from a seat-sharing agreement with the Left Front, winning three of the 13 seats it contested. The grand old party drew a blank in 2018.

Also read | BJP win in the northeast reflects the support from all sections: PM Modi

Tripura Chief Minister Manik Saha attributed the party’s victory to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP national president J.P. Nadda’s leadership besides the legwork of its grassroots workers.

“We shall continue with the good work initiated in 2018 and take Tripura forward,” he said.

State BJP leaders said the victory underlined Mr. Saha’s role as the saviour of the party’s image after his predecessor Biplab Kumar Deb, who often courted controversies. Mr. Saha, a soft-spoken dental surgeon, replaced Mr. Deb as the Chief Minister nine months ahead of the elections.

Pradyot Bikram Manikya Debbarma, the chairman of Tipra Motha, said his party did well to emerge as the second largest within two years of its birth. “One has to acknowledge the discontent among the tribal people in Tripura,” he said.

One of the factors that helped the BJP win is believed to be the consolidation of the non-tribal voters wary of the Greater Tipraland demand of the Tipra Motha. Non-tribals dominate 40 seats in the State.

Having it easy

The BJP and its dominant regional ally, the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP), had it fairly easy in Nagaland, a State virtually without any Opposition for a long time.

While the BJP maintained its 2018 seat count with 12 seats in the 60-member Assembly, the NDPP increased its tally to 25 from 17 in five years. Six other parties and Independents bagged the remaining 23 seats.

The other parties include the Republican Party of India (Athawale) and the Lok Janshakti Party (Ram Vilas), which won two seats each. These parties are associated with the BJP at the national level,

The Congress, once a formidable force, failed to open its account for the second successive time, while the Naga People’s Front managed only two seats, 24 fewer than in 2018.

Mandate 2023 in Nagaland proved to be historic with two women — NDPP’s Hekani Jakhalu and Salhoutuonuo Kruse — becoming the first to be elected to the State Assembly.

“The people have reposed their faith in us once again. Our responsibility to address some key issues has increased,” Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio.

Coalition again

Meghalaya did not deviate from the “tradition” of giving a fractured mandate barring its first Assembly election in 1972. But it reposed its faith in the National People’s Party (NPP) led by Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma despite the party facing a barrage of corruption charges from friends and rivals alike.

The NPP ended up with 26 seats, seven more than in 2018, while its main allies in the outgoing government, the United Democratic Party (UDP) and the BJP bagged 11 and two seats, respectively. There was, however, no pre-poll seat-sharing arrangement between the parties.

“I thank the people for the mandate. But we are short of the majority mark. We will discuss with like-minded parties and decide how to go forward,” he said after winning from the South Tura constituency.

The NPP has the choice of going with the UDP alone or three other regional parties with a total of eight seats, but the BJP is seen as crucial because small States in the northeast usually align with parties that rule at the Centre.

Also read | Not just a numbers game for the BJP in the northeast

Mr. Sangma is said to have met his Assam counterpart, Himanta Biswa Sarma before the results were announced. The latter said the former called up Mr. Shah and sought the BJP’s support.

“J.P. Nadda, our national president, has advised the Meghalaya BJP unit to support the NPP in forming the government,” Mr. Sarma said.

The biggest setback in Meghalaya was for the Congress which managed five seats compared with 21 in 2018. The party contested 59 seats and among its losers was State president and MP, Vincent H. Pala.

Voters in Meghalaya also did not give the Trinamool Congress, viewed as a ‘Bengali party’ from West Bengal, much of a chance. The party bagged five of the 55 seats it contested.

Elections were held in 59 of Meghalaya’s 60 seats. The election for the Sohiong constituency was deferred following the death of UDP candidate H.D.R. Lyngdoh.

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