The Hindu Profiles | On terror financing, political storm in Manipur and Kausalya Shankar

BJP-NPP political crisis | At the centre of a political storm

The party rocked the BJP-led govt. in Manipur, only to return to the front later

The rise of many regional parties in northeast India, mostly sired by agitations or insurgency, has been quite meteoric. The Asom Gana Parishad won 67 of Assam’s 126 Assembly seats in the State election two months after its birth on October 14, 1985, and four months after some of its founders — as student leaders — signed the Assam Accord to end a violent six-year agitation seeking to throw “illegal immigrants” out. Less than a year later, the Mizo National Front metamorphosed from a 25-year-old extremist group into a political party to hold the reins of Mizoram without contesting any election. The All India United Democratic Front headed by perfume baron Maulana Badruddin Ajmal had no real chances of forming a government, but it changed the narrative around “minority politics” by winning 10 seats in the 2006 Assam assembly election, less than six months after its formation.

Also read: After NPP’s return, Manipur BJP under pressure from other ally, defectors

The ‘national’ party

The National People’s Party (NPP), which rocked the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Manipur government by briefly withdrawing its support, took its time to make a mark in politics. One of the reasons could be its ‘national’ outlook. Unlike the others, the NPP did not want to be bound by geography with former Lok Sabha Speaker Purno Agitok Sangma, a leader familiar to the country beyond the northeast, at the helm. Besides, the NPP under him had no regional trigger. It had at its core a national issue — opposition to Sonia Gandhi’s stewardship of the Congress — relayed from his days in the Nationalist Congress Party and the Trinamool Congress.

Also read: Mischief managed: On Manipur politics

But the NPP, in its original form, had a very local ambition when it was registered by L. Ibomcha in Manipur a decade before Meghalaya-based Sangma had officially launched the party in January 2013. The party got a new lease of life by winning three out of five seats it contested for the 60-member Manipur Assembly in 2007, but it had limited clout in areas dominated by the Kuki-Zomi ethnic group. Its candidates bit the dust in the 2012 State election.

The NPP was reborn when Sangma took the reins and helped the party win four seats in the 2013 election in the faraway Rajasthan. He had it fairly easy in his backyard, winning Meghalaya’s Tura Lok Sabha seat in 2014. His younger son Conrad Kongkal Sangma took over the party after his death two years later — as the MP from Tura and as the wellspring of a party on an expansion drive.

The rise

Conrad Sangma, now the Chief Minister of Meghalaya, had the advantage of having the BJP, whose friendship his father cultivated, by his side. Under his leadership, the NPP won four seats in the 2017 Manipur election, 20 and two seats in the Meghalaya and Nagaland polls in 2018 and five seats in the 2019 Arunachal Pradesh election. In 2018, seven MLAs of the People’s Party of Arunachal Pradesh had merged with the NPP.

Also read: Revolving door: On Manipur politics

The NPP reached a milestone in June 2019 when the Election Commission of India recognised it as a national party. The recognition was based on the condition that it was registered in at least four States, all in the northeast.

Manipur’s was the first of alliance governments the NPP formed with the BJP in the northeast. Differences soon cropped up between Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren, the BJP’s catch from the Congress, and the four NPP legislators, particularly former Director-General of Police Yumnam Joykumar. It culminated with their pulling out of the government on June 17 along with five others, including three of the BJP. The NPP also had issues in Nagaland, where its two MLAs withdrew support from the BJP-Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) alliance in 2018 only to merge with the NDPP in 2019. It was the other way round in Meghalaya; the two BJP legislators there temporarily had issues with alliance leader NPP.

The return of its four MLAs to the alliance government in Manipur has made both the NPP and the BJP heave a sigh of relief, although the latter has run into problems with the Naga People’s Front, another regional ally. Both parties know they need each other as well as 11 regional members of the BJP-helmed North East Democratic Alliance to keep the only other national party and common enemy — the Congress — out of the northeast.

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Printable version | Jul 3, 2020 4:59:04 PM |

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