The contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, which triggered a lot of protests in the Northeastern states, has ultimately had no effect on the Lok Sabha polls. This is evident from the fact that of the 25 Lok Sabha seats in the region, the BJP-led North East Development Alliance (NEDA) is leading in 18 seats.
The BJP-led ruling alliance (with the regional Asom Gana Parishad and the Bodoland People’s Front as partners) is set to virtually sweep Assam. The alliance is leading in 11 of the 14 seats in the state. Even the BJP’s internal assessments had given the alliance only nine seats at best.
The NEDA is leading convincingly in both the seats in Arunachal Pradesh, the lone seat in Mizoram, one of the two seats in Meghalaya, one of the two seats in Manipur and both the seats in Tripura.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill had generated a lot of anger among the indigenous people of the region, who feared that they would be swamped by refugees from Bangladesh. The Bill, which was passed by the Lok Sabha but was not introduced in the Rajya Sabha, eases grant of citizenship to Hindus, Christians, Jains, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis fleeing persecution from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The region witnessed widespread protests and the general feeling was that the Bill had sealed the BJP and its allies’ political prospects in the region. The AGP left the ruling alliance (but rejoined later) while the BJP’s allies in the other states had started distancing themselves from the saffron party.
However, senior BJP leaders like Assam finance minister and NEDA convenor, Himanta Biswa Sarma, had kept reiterating that the Bill would not have any effect on the election results. Sarma had, during the campaign, repeatedly stated that the NEDA would bag around 18 seats in the Northeast.