Trust in continuity: On the Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim results

The Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim mandates are for status quo

Updated - June 04, 2024 07:38 am IST

Published - June 04, 2024 12:30 am IST

The verdicts to the Assembly elections in India’s easternmost and smallest State by population, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim, respectively, might not be a harbinger of what is to come in the 2024 general election. But the decisive victories achieved by the incumbent parties, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Arunachal Pradesh and the Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM) in Sikkim, indicate that the electorates in two States, overwhelmingly, preferred continuity over change. Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu and his party received a strong mandate, winning 46 out of the 60 seats and increasing the BJP’s tally even further by five seats. Mr. Khandu enjoys the reputation of running a stable government in the State, far from the tumultuous period in 2016 when he took over the reins. With a focus on welfare delivery and infrastructure development that has further connected the State to the rest of the country, Mr. Khandu has earned the confidence of the electorate. The BJP-friendly parties, the National People’s Party and the People’s Party of Arunachal, also registered five and two wins each, while the Opposition Congress’s tally was reduced to just one seat. Supporters of the BJP and its main leader, Mr. Khandu, would celebrate the fact that in 10 out of the 60 seats there was no contest, which limited the chances of any upset. But this does not bode well for the State as a robust contestation of ideas and policies is a must for a functioning democracy.

Arunachal Pradesh would do well not to go the Nagaland way where, technically, there is no opposition as all the parties that contested against the BJP-Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party coalition joined the alliance after the elections in 2023. In Sikkim, the SKM, led by Chief Minister Prem Singh Tamang won 31 out of the 32 seats, with a lone seat going to the erstwhile dominant Sikkim Democratic Front. The SKM’s victory in a multi-cornered fight was made possible by the regional assertion by the party which mobilised support on the issue of retaining Sikkim’s special status enshrined in Article 371F of the Constitution, on Mr. Tamang’s promises to deliver Scheduled Tribe status to some Nepali-origin communities, and his emphasis on job creation in the State. Sikkim’s ruling party might have fought against the BJP and the latter might have drawn a blank, but the SKM still considers the BJP an ally. Notwithstanding the strong identity based politics in the north-east, voters choose the national party ruling at the Centre or its ally, dependent as these States are on central government funds. The overwhelming mandate in his favour should help Mr. Tamang, who will have to use all of his diplomatic powers to ensure benefits from the Union government.

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