Elections

Tripura, Meghalaya, Nagaland Assembly Elections: Parties bank on pre-poll tie-ups

Wait ends: Votes from 59 of the 60 constituencies will be counted today.

Wait ends: Votes from 59 of the 60 constituencies will be counted today.   | Photo Credit: Abhisek Saha

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With BJP’s aggressive campaign and CPI(M) and Congress defending traditional strongholds, role of smaller parties will be crucial.

The first of the three northeastern States to go to the polls on February 18, the voters in Tripura had a relatively easier task of having to choose between the ruling Left Front and the challenger BJP to the right.

However, voters in Meghalaya and Nagaland had more options, increasing the possibility of a hung Assembly. To add to the confusion, in Nagaland the main regional rivals — the ruling Naga People’s Front (NPF) and Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) — are both linked to the BJP.

The BJP had struck a pre-poll deal with NDPP for contesting 20 seats, but kept its options with the NPF open. The NPF, one of the oldest constituents of the NDA in the Northeast, is a member of the BJP-helmed North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) whose goal is to rid the region of Congress.

Meet Governor

On Friday, Nagaland Chief Minister T.R. Zeliang and NPF president Shurhozelie Liezietsu met Governor P.B. Acharya with letters of pre-poll agreement with the Janata Dal (United) and National People’s Party (NPP), which together fielded 38 candidates.

“We have a good chance because voters know who can deliver for them,” Mr. Zeliang said, indicating that his party had been cleansed after 26 MLAs left to join NDPP and BJP before the poll process had begun.

Multi-cornered contest

Parleys for post-poll alliances have also been on in Meghalaya, where the race for political parties is likely to be single largest party. “The Congress has been the only consistent party in the state,” Chief Minister Mukul M. Sangma said, insisting the divisive politics of the BJP will be a gain for his party.

The Congress fancies its chances because the contest in Meghalaya is multi-cornered with BJP and two of its friends in NEDA – United Democratic Party and NPP – in the fray as rivals.

“Meghalaya is tougher than the other two States for us, but we hope to have a say in the final shape of things,” BJP’s State unit president Shibun Lyngdoh said.

NPP chief Conrad K. Sangma too indicated it will all boil down to post-poll combinations. “Our target has always been to be the single largest party,” he said.

The hurdle in Tripura is a deeply-entrenched Left Front headed by CPI(M), which has been ruling the state for 25 years.

The BJP’s ambition in Meghalaya and Nagaland is a tad less given the demographic and religious composition there. It has tied up with regional parties against a common enemy — the Congress. However, the pact has been confirmed only in Nagaland.

Battle for survival

For the Congress, Mandate 2018 has been more of a battle for survival. Seven of its nine MLAs in Tripura joined BJP before the polls and it has struggled to find candidates in Nagaland.

The party fancies its chances in Meghalaya, where the verdict has always been fractured after the 1972 Assembly election.

Buoyed by exit polls that predicted an edge in Tripura, the BJP is upbeat about ejecting the “corrupt” Communists. “People have voted for a change, and we hope to provide it,” State BJP president Biplab Kumar Deb said.

The BJP’s poll credo has been ‘chalo paltai (Let’s overhaul).’

The BJP’s ally is the Indigenous People’s Front of Twipra (IPFT), a party that had to eschew its demand for a separate tribal homeland to strike a poll-deal with the saffron party. The BJP left nine seats in tribal areas for the IPFT.

Stake for Left Front

The ruling CPI(M) is banking on its rural base to retain power. “Voters in Tripura are wise enough to know who is their true friend and who pretends to be,” the party’s State secretary, Bijan Dhar, said.

Ahead of the counting day, though, the CPI(M) received a setback with its Krishnapur candidate Khagendra Jamatia passing away at AIIMS in New Delhi on Friday.

Another prominent tribal face of the party, Ramendra Narayan Debbarma, died on February 11 leading to the countermanding of polls in Charilam constituency.

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2020 8:29:48 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/tripura-meghalaya-nagaland-assembly-elections-parties-bank-on-pre-poll-tie-ups/article22911703.ece

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