North-east Bypolls a Litmus Test for BJP

Published: 15th October 2014 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 14th October 2014 10:51 PM   |  A+A-


GUWAHATI: The BJP’s hopes of consolidating its base in the North-East will depend much on its success in the byelections in three Assembly seats in Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur.

While bypolls in Northern Angami II constituency in Nagaland and Kanubari in Arunachal Pradesh will take place tomorrow, Manipur’s Hiyanglam constituency will go to the polls on Friday.

In the 2014 Parliamentary elections, the BJP sprang a surprise, winning seven of the 14 seats in Assam. The party won one seat in Arunachal Pradesh. But in the rest of the North-East, the BJP is yet to emerge as a political force to reckon with, and the bypolls will surely be a litmus test for the party.

The BJP hopes to do well by riding on Narendra Modi wave. But elections in the region, especially in the hill states, have invariably been fought on local issues.

It will be a straight contest between two friends in Nagaland where the BJP’s Visasolie Lhoungu is taking on Neiphrezo Keditsu of the Naga People’s Front (NPF). The BJP is a constituent of the Democratic Alliance Government in Nagaland. The Opposition Congress, which has literally been decimated in the state,is not contesting the bypoll.

“Till last week, we thought it will be a neck- and-neck fight. Now, we believe we’re slightly ahead,” said BJP spokesman James Vizo. “Among the factors likely to work in our favour are Modi wave and anti-incumbency,” he added.

The byelection was necessitated following former Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio’s election to the Lok Sabha. He had won six times from here. The NPF candidate is his son-in-law and the party is upbeat on its victory prospects. “The people in Nagaland have embraced us. The fact that we have been in power since 2003 only buttresses that,” an NPF leader said.

The Kanubari seat in Arunachal Pradesh also braces itself for a straight contest between Congress candidate Gabriel Denwang Wangsu, a former journalist, and the BJP’s Rongnai Maham. The seat fell vacant following

Congress MLA Newlai Tingkhatra’s death.

The BJP is optimistic about its success, keeping in mind Modi’s performance. But the Congress lambasted the party for “hoodwinking” people with its “achche din aayenge” slogan.

“People will vote in favour of us for the series of development initiatives of our government,” state Congress chief Padi Richo said.

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