GUWAHATI: It seems the BJP has run out of issues in the Northeast. In the run-up to the 2014 elections, the party went for the Congress’ jugular, highlighting the series of scams under UPA II. Its vitriolic attack on the Congress helped the party win seven of the 14 Lok Sabha seats in the state. Eleven months later, the party continues to harp on the same agenda to cozy up to voters.
In every northeast state that BJP president Amit Shah visited during his recent maiden tour of the region, he was seen trying to warm up to people by talking about the UPA II scams. He also promised development. But in a region with a large population of Christians, these tactics will not help the BJP to emerge as a force to reckon with. So far, the party has been unable to keep the community in good humour. Shah got a taste of it in Shillong when he was welcomed with a “beef party”.
“The Northeast has a special place in our hearts, and our party will always give priority to the region’s development that includes improved border trade with the neighbouring countries,” Shah said at a rally in Mizoram’s capital Aizawl. In Congress-ruled Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, where the governments face a series of corruption charges, Shah underscored the scams that took place during the tenure of UPA II.
“The Congress looted the country for 60 long years. During UPA II, almost every month a scam involving crores of rupees came to light. And they now question our achievements. But let us proclaim that there hasn’t been a single case of corruption in the NDA government in the last ten months,” Shah said.
Corruption, often cited as the main reason for the backwardness of the Northeast, is a major issue in the region where the Congress has been a dominant force for decades. States that are currently ruled by the party include Assam, Manipur, Mizoram, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh.
“He told us to keep a hawk’s eye on cases of corruption and unearth them. His message for us was also that we take the cases of graft to the people,” a BJP leader in Assam told The Sunday Standard.
Shah’s visit was against the backdrop of the ban on cow slaughter in Maharashtra, attack on a church in Agra and the alleged rape of a nun in West Bengal. Such was the people’s anger that when he visited the Christian-majority Meghalaya, he was greeted with a “beef party”, organised by a pressure group.
People from diverse backgrounds gathered outside the Raj Bhavan to defend what they called their “rights and freedom” by eating together local delicacies made from beef. Their action led the BJP to assert that it was not proposing a ban on cow slaughter in the Northeast.
“The ban on cow slaughter has been there in some states for several decades. In many states, including those in the Northeast, it is not there because of their demographic situation,” BJP general secretary Ram Madhav told the media in Shillong. He had accompanied Shah during his visit to Meghalaya.
The BJP’s first real test in the region will be next year’s Assembly polls in Assam. A lot will depend on these polls, which the party needs to win if it wishes to extend its influence to other states in the region.