Not so friendly contest
THOUGH expression of low opinion against the rival candidates had been the common narratives in electoral politics, National People’s Party (NPP) legislator and deputy chief minister Yumnam Joykumar alleging that candidates fielded by BJP and NPF for the Outer Manipur Parliamentary Constituency have the backing of armed outfits is a serious charge. Such outlandish assertion from one of the partners of the N Biren-led government suggests that the electoral battle is no more a friendly fight, which the allies had agreed upon out of compulsion when consensus eluded seat-sharing formula for political parties under NEDA. With the NPP, which is making its political debut in Assam in the upcoming Lok Sabha election, making its intention clear to not only span across the north-eastern states but also eyeing at-least 10 of the 25 seats in the region, the former state police chief Joykumar taking pot-shots at BJP and NPF as well as branding the Congress nominee for the same seat as a financial fraud might be part of the party’s game plan not to concede any ground to the opponents. While absence of a viable alternative from amongst the non-BJP political organisations is one of the reasons for the continued dominance of the BJP in national politics, NPP under the stewardship of Meghalaya chief minister Conrad Sangma seems to be emerging as a force to reckon with in the region. With hardly any leader who is in a position to match the credibility of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the BJP is expected to a face a tough challenge from the NPP as well as the Congress in realising its goal of wresting maximum number of seats in the region.
Though Modi is the BJP’s biggest asset on account of his image of a no-nonsense politician making a strong impression on the mind of Indian voters that change for the betterment is imminent, in the context of the northeast region, NPP has been fairly successful in portraying itself as a political entity which will not relent from fighting for the cause of the region’s ethnic communities. Moreover, NPP contesting the Lok Sabha polls on the twin issues of the contentious Citizenship Amendment Bill and assurance to bring Inner Line Permit (ILP) system in all the NE states appears to be drawing interest among the region’s masses. When Conrad Sangma lashed out at Union government after the latter tried to enact CAB his bold stand unarguably helped enhance NPP’s profile as an organisation resolute to bring all the people of the region together on a common platform so that Delhi is forced to listen to their voices. As there is no ambiguity in the demand for scrapping of the Citizenship Bill and implementing the ILP system; so as to ensure that the indigenous people are constitutionally safeguarded and their right to natural resources not deprived, it is but natural that the region’s masses will look up to the regional parties to fight for the numerically inferior natives. BJP successfully toppled the Congress governments from its traditional stronghold in northeast as the people voted for change but decision of the Union government led by the saffron party to implement CAB has obviously made the region’s masses to raise posers over the Centre’s commitment for upholding interest of the ethnic minorities, thereby making the NPP a formidable force to take on both the ruling BJP and the Congress in the region.