Mumbai: For the first time in history, the presence of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has widened to five of seven-sister states of India’s north-east region.

Since the party came to power at the Centre in 2014, its influence in the resource-rich, strategic region that borders China, Myanmar, Bhutan and Bangladesh, has spread from Arunachal Pradesh in 2014 to Assam in 2016 to Manipur in 2017 and Tripura and Nagaland in 2018.

In the 2018 state elections held in February 2018, the party has now:

  • Defeated the incumbent Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) that was in power for 25 consecutive years as the lead partner of the Left Democratic Front in Tripura.
  • Won the third largest vote share of 14.6% in Nagaland, a state of 16 major tribes and 20 sub-tribes, with over 30 languages and dialects.
  • Got its highest vote-share (9.6%) in 30 years in the Congress strong-hold of Meghalaya while the latter reported its lowest vote share (28.5%).

With its win in Tripura, and if the party forms the government through an alliance in Nagaland, the BJP will now be in power in 21 of 29 states in the country.

In Nagaland, the BJP ended a 15-year alliance with the Naga People’s Front (NPF) over seat-sharing issues in February 2018. It joined forces with the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP), which includes many former leaders of the NPF, agreeing to a 20:40 seat-sharing arrangement.

In a flip flop, post-results, the BJP now intends to re-enter into an alliance with NPF to secure its place in the government.

The NPF had announced it would be open to allying once again with the BJP.

Elections in Nagaland are “a very special case” because they are being held in the backdrop of the crucial Naga peace talks, which were progressing smoothly, said union minister and BJP leader in-charge for state Kiren Rijiju.

"A favourable government, where the BJP is a very strong pillar, is important for the Naga people, for the peace talks," the minister added.

BJP ends 25-year CPM rule in Tripura

In Tripura, in a historic 19-seat lead over the CPM, the BJP ended the Left-Front’s uninterrupted 25-year-reign in the state.

The small state, with a population of 3.6 million comparable to Jaipur, had become critical for the BJP’s plans to expand its base in the north-east.

While faring better than some richer states on health and social indicators, Tripura has the highest unemployment rate in the country -- four times the national average (4.9%), IndiaSpend reported on February 17, 2018.

Tripura’s per capita income also features in the bottom pile of states and union territories across India, indicating that rising aspirations of people are likely to have had a decisive impact on the election.

Seats Won: BJP and CPM In Tripura, 1983-2018
Parities 2018 2013 2008 2003 1998 1993 1988 1983
BJP 35 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
CPM 16 49 46 38 38 44 26 37

Source: Election Commission

Vote-Share: BJP and CPM In Tripura, 1983-2018
Parties 2018 2013 2008 2003 1998 1993 1988 1983
BJP 43 1.54 1.49 1.32 5.87 2.02 0.15 0.06
CPM 42.7 48.11 48.01 46.82 45.49 44.78 45.82 46.78

Source: Election Commission; Figures in (%)

At 8.37 pm on March 3, 2018, the BJP’s vote share in Tripura was 43%, according to leads, it’s highest ever, shows an analysis of election data dating back to 1983. The BJP’s best vote-share previously was 5.9% in 1998, when the NDA was formed at the Centre for the 1998 general elections.

Meanwhile, at 8.37pm on March 2, 2018, according to leads, the CPM was leading/ had won 16 seats -- its lowest ever, even lower than the number of seats it won in 1988 (26) when it lost to the Congress. In the 2013 state assembly elections, the CPM had won 49 seats--its best performance ever.

BJP may be part of government in Nagaland

The Naga People’s Front (NPF), alongwith the BJP, has been in power in Nagaland since 2003.

As of 6.52pm, in a neck-and-neck race, the NPF had a win/lead in 27 seats, while the NDPP-BJP alliance collectively had a win/ lead in 27 seats, election data show.

Seats Won By Parties In Nagaland 1998-2018
Parties Won 2018 2013 2008 2003 1998 1993 1989
BJP 11 1 2 7 0
Naga People’s Front 27 38 26 19
Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party 16
INC 0 8 23 21 53 35 36

Source: Election Commission

Vote-Share By Major Parties In Nagaland 1998-2018
Parties Won 2018 2013 2008 2003 1998 1993 1989
BJP 14.4 1.75 5.35 10.88 0.35
Naga People’s Front 39.1 47.04 33.62 29.76
Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party 25.5
INC 2.1 24.89 36.28 35.86 50.73 46.02 51.45

Source: Election Commission; Figures in (%)

While the NPF had the largest vote-share of 39.1%, the NDPP and the BJP have vote shares of 25.3% and 14.6%, respectively.

At 14.6%, this is the highest-ever vote share the BJP has won in the Nagaland state elections, election data show. Prior to this, the BJP’s best vote-share in the state was 10.9% in 2003 when it entered into an alliance with the NPF.

While the NPF vote share declined 8% points from 47% in 2013 to 39% in 2018, with the BJP now showing interest in renewing the 15-year-old alliance -- the party is likely to remain in power in the state.

Since the Naga rebels entered into an indefinite ceasefire with the central government in 2007, the state has improved on a number of health and social development outcomes to now rival and even outperform richer states, IndiaSpend reported on February 27, 2018. However, poor infrastructure and a fragile peace continue to be problem areas as the state, formed on December 1, 1963, struggles with economic growth. These are likely to have decisively impacted the elections.

Hung assembly likely in Meghalaya

In the other Christian-majority state of Meghalaya, while the BJP itself has won only two seats -- lower than its previous high of three seats in 1998 when the National Democratic Alliance was formed at the Centre -- the Congress’s grasp on the state appears to have loosened.

With no clear majority in sight, Meghalaya seems headed for a hung assembly.

A rare matrilineal state – where family descent is traced through the mother rather than the father – Meghalaya nearly matches India’s richer states on health outcomes but insurgency and poor infrastructure impede its progress, IndiaSpend reported on February 26, 2018.

After attaining statehood in 1972, Meghalaya, with a population of two million, the size of Lucknow, has been ruled by Congress-led coalition governments since 1976.

In 2018, at 28.5% (as of 9.01 pm on March 3, 2018, according to leads), the party has its lowest vote-share in nearly 30 years since 1989, an analysis of election data show.

The vote share of the BJP at 9.6%, as of 9.01 pm on March 3, 2018, is its highest in 30 years. Prior to this, the BJP’s best vote-share was 5% recorded in 1998 when the NDA was formed at the Centre, as we said.

(With data inputs by Chaitanya Mallapur and Angel Mohan)

(Saldanha is an assistant editor and Mallapur is a policy analyst with IndiaSpend. Mohan is an intern with IndiaSpend)

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