New Delhi: The recent success of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Tripura municipal polls had adversely impacted the Trinamool Congress’s expansion plans in the northeast. The BJP, which was not even a player in the entire northeast till 2012, is now the pre-eminent force in the region which is not only politically important, but more important strategically for the country.

The Sunday Guardian tried to trace how the saffron party emerged as the prime force in the region.

“The North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), a BJP-led alliance of regional parties in the northeast, and Himanta Biswa Sarma are the prime reasons for the success of the saffron party in the region. In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP-led-alliance won 17 of the 24 seats from the region. When Himanta Biswa Sarma joined the BJP in 2015, he gave the saffron party a major roadmap for the northeast as he had all the required knowledge and understanding of each state’s issues and how to win loyalty. The idea of NEDA was coined by him and Amit Shah liked it. Nobody then believed that it would help in such a way that in the coming 5-7 years, the region would become the saffron party’s fiefdom. Even the success of the northeast impacted the road ahead for the BJP in West Bengal,” Rajan Deka, a political observer based in Tezpur, said.

It was Sarma who helped the BJP recover lost ground after it faced stiff opposition in Assam following the implementation of the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). Despite much effort by the TMC to make inroads in Tripura, the ruling saffron party swept the civic polls in the state—winning 217 of 222 seats on which elections were held on 25 November. The Trinamool Congress won one seat and the CPM won three seats.

A senior BJP leader said, “In 1960s, Devdas Apte, a lifelong Pracharak came to the northeast on the instructions of Deen Dayal Upadhyay. It was the first connect of the ideological mentor organization with the region. Now, 50 years down the line, we are the pre-eminent force here. The 2014 elections and the BJP’s rise nationally played a role in this, but one more factor was that the people in this part of the country were unhappy with the ruling old elites. The BJP emerged as a type of alternative.”

In the northeast region, the Congress was in power in five states till 2016. Tripura was ruled by the Left Front government. However, after the 2016 debacle in Assam, the northeast region slipped away from the Congress. The BJP promoted the North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), a forum of non-Congress regional parties which later formed the government in Manipur, decimated the Left Front in Tripura and formed the governments in Mizoram and Nagaland. The Congress had tried to organize the seven states through the North East Congress Coordination Committee (NECCC) which is a forum for the Congress leaders of the northeast, but nothing happened. Congress leaders were thinking that as the party comes back in power in Assam, it will help in creating an atmosphere to win back the entire northeast. But, it didn’t happen and the party lost Assam in the 2021 Assembly polls to the BJP. Now, it is clear that the saffron party is very strong in the region.