ARENJUNGLA KICHU | Mokokchung | February 24
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday attacked Congress party during an election rally at the Agri Expo Center Ground, Chumoukedima, claiming that it used the Northeast as an ATM and that the entire region is now “punishing” the grand old party for its sins.
“Congress leaders in Delhi never looked towards Nagaland, and never gave importance to stability and prosperity in the state. The Congress has always run the Nagaland government from Delhi. Congress engaged in familial politics from Delhi to Dimapur,” the Prime Minister said.
For the first time, the Nagaland assembly election has become a full-blown battleground between the BJP and the Congress with sight on the 2024 Lok Sabha election.
Over the last eight years, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has established itself as the dominant player in Indian politics and the only other significant national party that can pose a threat to the BJP is the Congress. However, the BJP has gained largely at the expense of the Congress, while regional parties have managed to compete with the saffron party.
Various Media has often pitted Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) to be a bigger threat for BJP than the Congress but the BJP leaders have always maintained the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is not a “threat to BJP at the national level.”
Noticeably, the BJP is wary of Rahul Gandhi’s rise, especially given the success of the ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ and the possibility of a ‘united opposition’.
“If all parties come together and fight together, we can defeat the BJP in 2024,” Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said earlier this month.
The BJP knows well that regional parties such as Nitish Kumar led Janata Dal (United), Tejasvi led Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party, Mamata’s Trinamool Congress (TMC), KC Rao’s Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), Pinarayi’s Left Democratic Front (LDF) and many others will serve as a hurdle in its road to Lok Sabha 2024, especially if it allies with the Indian National Congress.
Many regional parties, however, do not see a future for a non-Congress opposition front, and as a result, leaders like Nitish Kumar have insisted on being a part of a grand alliance of all opposition parties, regardless of their differences.
“We have repeatedly stated that in areas where regional parties are strong, they should be given the driving seat, and where there is a bipolar contest between the Congress and the BJP, we will support the Congress,” Tejasvi Yadav said at a convention.
The importance of Congress in defeating the BJP in 2024 is obvious, but the road to opposition unity is rocky.
Looking at electoral history, the BJP has performed best in states where it is directly competing with the Congress. In that regard, the Congress may be in desperate need of allying with regional parties; however, it will have to realistically assess its positions in states such as Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, and settle for only those constituencies where it can put up a good fight.
However, Congress is unable to approach and embrace the opposition first. In fact, Congress leader Jairam Ramesh issued an aggressive response, claiming that Congress was “well-aware” of its role and did not require a “certificate” from anyone.
He also used the opportunity to say that the Congress was the only party that never compromised with the BJP, which may appear to be a dig at Nitish at the time.
As a result, the BJP sees value in targeting the Congress party in all states, including Nagaland, so as to ensure that the largest opposition party is pushed to a corner and that the regional parties see no relevance in aligning with the party.
What does the BJP-Congress battle mean for Nagaland politics?
Prime Minister Narendra Modi made no mention of the ‘Naga Political issue’ in his speech on Friday, indicating that, as usual, he prefers to remain silent on areas where he has failed. But, more importantly, it is a message indicating that it is no longer as relevant as it once was.
PM Modi delivered a speech on ‘DevINE’ and connectivity, including Nagaland’s connection to Myanmar, flights from Dimapur airport to the North East under the UDAN scheme, its second railway station after 100 years, and railways connecting Kohima, among other things.
These projects demonstrate to Nagas that his government’s policy has successfully integrated Nagas into Indians and that he has bridged the gap between Nagaland and the rest of India.
But the most important takeaway is that he delivered his speech in ‘Hindi’ today rather than in English unlike he did when he visited Nagaland in 2015.
In 2015 PM Modi deviated from his usual routine when he delivered his inaugural speech in ‘English’ in Nagaland during the Hornbill Festival, implying that Nagaland felt ‘less Indian’ to him at the time. However, his Hindi address today indicates that he believes the Nagas are ‘more Indian’ today, demonstrating once again that ‘integration of the Nagas’ has been successful.
“Infrastructure development, connectivity and economic activity,” strategists have always said, is the way to integrate Nagaland into India. The room is always open to debate, but this could be an indication that the ‘Naga Political Solution’ is losing favor.
Moreover, the dig at Congress, a party that does not have a single MLA in the state indicates how similar the Nagaland political atmosphere has become with the rest of the other Indian States.
These are all indications of a paradigm shift in Naga political solution.