Breaking alliances in Nagaland to win: BJP does whatever it takes

By Madhulika Gupta

There have already been woes of settlement about the Naga issue in the politically sensitive state of Nagaland. And now that the state is poll-bound, there is an uproar in the parties contesting the election- roars of which reverberate in the entire nation.

BJP ended their fifteen-year long alliance with the Naga People’s Front (NPF). Soon after the BJP parted ways, it clasped the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) by its arm. A new party with a fair stronghold in the region, the BJP-NDPP alliance has made the NPF fuming and crying betrayal.

In the midst of internal disputes, BJP has a monumental task to achieve if it wants to win people’s trust and sweep the Nagaland election (scheduled for 27th February).

Naga issue- A plaguing past and uncertain future

The Naga issue has been at the centre of North-Eastern politics. The ethnic conflict has engulfed many states of North-East India over time. The NPF, which has been at the heart of this issue acting as a negotiator all along, is now facing a split in its own party. The internal conflict, which has started to rise since the past one year had pushed incumbent CM TR Zeliang to put his papers in. However, little did anyone know, he’s come back within a few weeks.

These internal conflicts shook people’s confidence in the party as a serious negotiator on behalf of Nagaland’s public. Perhaps, this is what is to be attributed to BJP losing confidence in the party too.

BJP-NPF alliance

BJP and NPF came together under the banner of Democratic Alliance of Nagaland (DAN) in 2003. Post this, the alliance has won three consecutive elections. It is safe to assume that Nagaland became one of BJP’s strongholds because of this alliance.

BJP was already in talks with NPF over seat-sharing for the 60 Assembly seats. BJP’s in-charge for Nagaland elections, Kiren Rijiju, formally announced the alliance between BJP and NDPP on 3rd February, just weeks before the elections. There was no formal announcement about why BJP was breaking ties with NPF. However, Rijiju made sure to encourage “friendship” between both the parties.

BJP chiefs unhappy

Surprisingly, BJP was facing issues debating the seat sharing with NPF. With NDPP, they emerged with a quick seat-sharing plan under which the NDPP would contest from 40 seats and BJP would get to contest from the remaining 20 seats.

Shockingly, this has not gone down well with the chiefs of BJP’s district units, who have collectively written to the party president Amit Shah about this. In resentment of this announcement, the unit chiefs also refrained from filing their candidature, with hours left for the process window to close. The biggest worry that these chiefs have raised revolved around seat-sharing. They are clearly upset with how many seats NDPP is getting to contest from.

According to BJP’s district presidents in Nagaland, the BJP workers and volunteers have a much stronger hold and presence at the grassroots level. Most of these veterans believe that NDPP is a new player in the game with young players but zero experience who will not contribute much to the success of BJP in this Assembly election.

Using the NDPP

The biggest factor that’s going to contribute to BJP’s fate in the state is the Naga issue. There have been final negotiations, the two parties (one national and one regional) have now split and there is a new player in town. The entry of NDPP is an interesting thing for the people of Nagaland. It is almost like how Delhi voted for Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP when he joined politics with a motive of bringing the freshness of youth and a newer perspective. People saw an option and they went for it. A need for change drove the mandate, which was evident in how heavily people supported AAP. Nagaland could see something coming on the same lines. People could see an option and a potential in NDPP led by Neiphiu Rio. This will ultimately be milked by BJP as another state they would have retained before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

If the BJP wants to play the winning stroke, they will have to strike the chords of people and fire shots from NDPP’s shoulder this time. That is how Manipur CM Nongthombam Biren Singh put it when he predicted that the alliance would sweep the floor by huge margins. He was quoted as saying that the public wants to see change, and hence they will choose BJP-NDPP. But the NPF has not lost heart and is doing everything in its power to play the game with equal valour. Though the party is crying foul claiming that BJP has been unfair. NPF still believes
that they have a strong hold over the people when it comes to governing and connecting with them at the grassroots level.

However, when it comes to alliances working out, time shall testify if breaking off “friendships” and forming new ones is profitable or not.

Featured Image Source: on VisualHunt / CC BY