Thursday (2 March) does not look set to be a happy one for Modi-baiters.
The results of the Assembly elections to the three Northeastern states of Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya, say most exit polls, will deal a blow to the vaunted dreams of a few politicians, including Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee.
As had already been predicted by Swarajya, and borne out by most exit polls conducted by various agencies, the BJP-IPFT combine is likely to win a slender majority of the 60 seats in Tripura.
The (NDPP)-BJP alliance is all set to return to power in Nagaland.
And while no party will win a majority of the seats in Meghalaya, the BJP is sure to be a part of the next ruling alliance that will exclude newcomer Trinamool Congress.
The results will deal a blow to Mamata Banerjee who is keen to take her regional party beyond the boundaries of Bengal to which it has been confined. The Trinamool has reportedly spent humongous sums of funds to make its mark in Meghalaya.
The Left, which entered into an opportunistic alliance with the Congress to counter the BJP in Tripura, is most likely to see its hopes of unseating the saffron party from power in the state dashed. And then, not only will the CPI(M)’s very survival be at stake in the Northeastern state, the Marxist party will stand reduced to the status of a provincial outfit like the Trinamool.
According to most exit polls, the BJP-IPFT combine will win a majority of the seats in the state. Some polls, though, say that it will fall just a few seats short of a majority.
Even if that happens, the BJP-IPFT combine will stand at a distinct advantage since it will have a far larger share of seats in its kitty than the Left-Congress alliance. The Left-Congress alliance is predicted to bag, at most, 15 to 17 seats.
The tribal Tipra Motha, which is predicted to bag about 12 to 15 seats, will then emerge as the king-maker. Though it is widely rumoured that the Motha has been propped up by the CPI(M) to counter the BJP and decimate it in the tribal belts of the state, its chief--royal scion --is a pragmatic man.
Deb Barma, say political analysts, is likely to support the BJP-IPFT combine in case the latter falls a little short of majority. In case of a hung Assembly, the Governor will call on the largest party or alliance--in this case, the BJP-IPFT alliance--to form the government.
That will induce Deb Barma to extend support to the BJP-led alliance in order to stay politically relevant in the state. If he refuses to do so, he will run the risk of facing a revolt from his MLAs who will want to stay on the right side of the alliance in power in order to develop their respective constituencies.
The post-results power-play in Tripura may also see the Congress breaking ties with the Left and and its MLAs resolving to support the BJP-IPFT combine in case the latter falls a little short of crossing the majority mark.
The Congress, anyway, is highly unlikely to win more than three to four seats. And its most prominent leader--Sudip Roy Burman--who will lead the party’s legislative wing has done frequent political somersaults.
Sudip, son of former Congress chief minister Samir Ranjan Burman, cut his political teeth in the Congress and won the four consecutive times on Congress tickets in 1998, 2003, 2008 and 2013.
He led a group of five other Congress MLAs to join the Trinamool in 2016 over his party’s decision to fight the Assembly elections that year in Bengal in alliance with the Left. He had opposed the Left-Congress alliance at that time, though he was instrumental in the formation of the same alliance in Tripura this time.
But within a year of defecting to the Trinamool, he joined the BJP along with the five other MLAs that he had led from the Congress to the Trinamool. He fought and won the 2018 elections from Agartala on a BJP ticket, and was made the health minister in the Biplab Deb ministry.
But he rebelled against chief minister Deb and tried to incite a revolt against the chief minister. He was thus sacked from the cabinet and in February 2022, he quit the BJP and joined the Congress along with another BJP MLA.
Sudip still retains good ties with some BJP leaders, including Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma. It will, thus, not be unreasonable to expect him to commit another u-turn and lead the entire batch of Congress MLAs (the three to four of them) to resign from the party and either join the BJP or form a separate bloc within the Assembly to extend support to the BJP-IPFT.
Whatever be the post-poll scenario, the CPI(M)-led Left is likely to find itself as the worst loser. The Marxists, who were unceremoniously unseated from power by the BJP in 2018 after 25 years of misrule over Tripura, are already in the dumps in that state.
The CPI(M)’s only hope of proving its political relevance at the national level is to form the government in Tripura. But with exit polls precluding such a possibility, the Marxists will find themselves relegated to the sidelines and losing relevance at the national political stage.
The CPI(M) will, thus, be reduced to the status of a provincial party of Kerala. And it will suffer a further decimation in its ranks in Tripura.
The just-concluded polls was perhaps the CPI(M)’s last chance to retrieve, at least to a respectable extent, the ground it lost to the BJP in Tripura in 2018. But it seems to have lost that chance, perhaps permanently.
The (NPP) is, according to most exit polls, set to emerge as the single largest party but will fall well short of the majority mark of 31 in the 60-member Assembly.
Realising this, its chief and incumbent chief minister Conrad Sangma hinted at the possibility of reviving the alliance with the BJP and regional party (UDP). This alliance had ruled Meghalaya since 2018, but broke up in the run-up to the polls.
The BJP, predict exit polls, will win four to six seats while the UDP will bag ten to twelve seats. The NPP is set to win between 18 and 22 seats.
While the chances of the NPP, UDP and BJP reviving their earlier alliance and forming the government in the state is very bright, it is the Trinamool that is set to face a major setback.
The Trinamool had no roots or presence in Meghalaya till former Congress chief minister Mukul Sangma led a group of 11 Congress legislators to join the Bengal-based party in November 2021 over inner-party differences.
Sangma, a popular leader from the Garo Hills which has 24 seats in the 60-member Assembly, was being marginalised in the Congress and thought he had no future in that party. Joining the Trinamool was also the best option for him at that time.
The Trinamool pumped in huge resources to boost its electoral prospects in Meghalaya. Mamata Banerjee and her nephew Abhishek, as well as top leaders of the party from Bengal, campaigned extensively for the party, which also promised a lot of doles.
But it has found little acceptability in the Khasi and Jaintia Hills, and its influence has remained confined to the Garo Hills.
And that’s only because of the popularity of Mukul Sangma. The campaigning by Mamata Banerjee or other Bengal-based leaders of the party in Meghalaya have made little difference to the party’s electoral prospects.
Exit polls predict that the Trinamool will win between five to 13 seats, most of them in the Garo Hills. There is no way it will be able to lead government-formation efforts.
And since none of the Trinamool MLAs will owe their victories to Mamata Banerjee or any Bengal-based Trinamool leader, there is a high possibility of all or at least more than two-thirds of the Trinamool legislators breaking away from the party.
This has happened to the Trinamool twice in Manipur in the past, and there is no reason why history will not repeat itself in Meghalaya as well.
The results of the elections in the Christian-majority tribal state will be a setback to Mamata Banerjee and her vaunted dream of playing a big role in the national arena. Banerjee had hoped that her party would win a majority, or near-majority, of the seats in Meghalaya and Mukul Sangma would become the second Trinamool Congress chief minister in the country.
That’s why she poured in huge sums of money for campaigning and deployed top leaders of her party from Bengal to Meghalaya. She had hoped that a Trinamool government in Meghalaya would prove that her party is not a provincial outfit and that it is truly capable of expanding its footprints outside Bengal.
All exit polls predict a comfortable win for the NDPP-BJP alliance. The polls predict that the alliance, which had ruled Nagaland successfully and without a hitch for the past five years, will bag between 35 and 48 seats in the 60-member Assembly.
The regional (NPF) is expected to win between five to eight seats while the Congress is expected to come a cropper or win, at best, a couple of seats.
Thursday is, thus, expected to bring good cheer to the BJP as it will, in all likelihood, lead governments or be part of the ruling alliances in all the three states. And its strongest critics--the Left and the Trinamool--are likely to face severe reverses.
As you are no doubt aware, Swarajya is a media product that is directly dependent on support from its readers in the form of subscriptions. We do not have the muscle and backing of a large media conglomerate nor are we playing for the large advertisement sweep-stake.
Our business model is you and your subscription. And in challenging times like these, we need your support now more than ever.
We deliver over 10 - 15 high quality articles with expert insights and views. From 7AM in the morning to 10PM late night we operate to ensure you, the reader, get to see what is just right.
Becoming a Patron or a subscriber for as little as Rs 1200/year is the best way you can support our efforts.