NE crucial for Congress this election
Guwahati, March 22
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he Northeast assumes greater significance for the Congress this election given the grim projections for the party and a perceived BJP wave elsewhere in the country.
The region accounts for 25 parliamentary seats and has been a Congress stronghold for years. The party is in power in five of these states, barring Sikkim, Tripura and Nagaland.
In multi-ethnic Northeast, elections have often been fought between Congress and regional entities. The Congress, arguably, is the only national party which the people here can relate to for its ‘secular face’.
Christians are in majority in three of the region’s eight states including Sikkim and they have a sizeable population in as many others. It was invariably a regional party every time the people voted for a change.Parties ruling the states have often done well in parliamentary elections. Going by that experience, the Congress may feel relieved in the region. Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya and Mizoram, which together account for 21 parliamentary seats, are currently ruled by the Congress.
This election, political analysts feel, the Congress has a mountain to climb in NPF-ruled Nagaland, Left-ruled Tripura and Sikkim Democratic Front-ruled Sikkim.
The NPF wrested power from the Congress in 2003 by championing the cause of regionalism and since then it has only grown in strength and stature. The party has not lost a single election ever since then.
In Tripura, the Left has virtually buried the Congress. The Congress is trying to regain its lost ground in Sikkim. But the party’s vote share in the three states has only dwindled each passing election.
Despite being in power since 2001, the Congress faces an uphill task in Assam where the BJP is expected to give them a run for their money. The growth of BJP and also that of All India United Democratic Front has only sunk in the ship of Asom Gana Parishad (AGP). Born out of the anti-foreigners agitation of 1980s, the AGP ruled the state twice before being weakened by infighting that saw a number of its stalwarts deserting the party in recent times to wear the saffron colour.
The people in Assam are increasingly terrified for fear of being outnumbered as a result of the infiltration of illegal Bangladeshi migrants. The BJP has been able to play on the threat by promising to go hard at them if voted to power. Muslims are virtual kingmakers in at least six parliamentary constituencies in the state.
The Adivasis and Bengalis hold sway in four and two constituencies respectively.