Three States: election in a changing political landscape

The three States going to the polls in February are among the smaller ones in the country, but their political significance should not be underestimated. Tripura is the only State other than Kerala where the Communist Party of India (Marxist) is in power, and the election will test the popularity of Manik Sarkar, one of the longest-serving Chief Ministers. The State has traditionally had a high turnout, with more than 90% of the electorate casting a vote in the 2013 election. Tripura has witnessed an improvement in several social indices — it is almost fully literate, has lowered the infant mortality rate, and has a high overall rank on the human development index despite being a largely agrarian and forestry-dominated economy. The CPI(M)’s long reign in Tripura may have seen the end of tribal insurgency and an improvement in social indices, but the party will also be tested by public opinion on the underside of Tripura’s economy — relatively high unemployment and the lack of diversification. The party will also face a new test inasmuch as the Congress has been replaced by the BJP as the principal opposition party. The BJP has focussed on wooing and winning over the tribal population, which constitutes 32% of the total population. Given this, it is possible that it will team up with the Indigenous Nationalist Party of Twipra despite differences over the latter’s demand for a state of Tipraland to be carved out of Tripura’s tribal areas.

In Nagaland, the ruling Nagaland People’s Front (NPF) has had a turbulent year with Chief Minister T.R. Zeliang returning to power in July 2017 after being ousted a few months earlier over reservations in urban local bodies. The factional battle within the NPF was brought to a partial resolution with an agreement between supporters of Mr. Zeliang and his predecessor, Shurhozelie Liezietsu, in December. But the rupture has raised the hopes of the opposition, particularly the BJP. The Naga Framework Agreement and the role of the apex Naga tribal body, the Naga Hoho, which has called for an electoral boycott, also loom large. How this will affect the polls will be watched. The Congress is fighting to retain Meghalaya, one of only four States where it is in power. Chief Minister Mukul Sangma, in power for almost eight uninterrupted years, will be hard-selling the plank of stability. However, Meghalaya, like other northeastern States, is largely dependent on Central funds, and these States tend to favour parties that wield power at the Centre. The BJP, with virtually no presence here, is banking on this hope and leaving no stone unturned. In doing so it may depend on Conrad K. Sangma’s National People’s Party, which is contesting independently but is part of the NDA at the Centre. While these elections may not be a barometer of the overall political mood, they will decide whether the BJP’s hope of expanding its footprint will be achieved.

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Printable version | Apr 15, 2021 8:44:31 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/tripura-nagaland-and-meghalay-election-in-a-changing-political-landscape/article22466617.ece

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