Govt's NE development push enables BJP to reap rich political dividends

By Sujit Chakraborty

Guwahati/Agartala, May 28 (IANS): After 2014, when the BJP-led NDA came to power at the Centre, the Congress organisational base in the northeast region started declining and the saffron party took over the lost base of the grand old party, which had a strong hold in the northeastern region for decades.

The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi along with all the Central leaders of the BJP made the northeast their focal area.

According to an official document, Prime Minister Modi termed the northeastern region as "Ashtalakshmi" and visited it more than 60 times since 2014.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah who also frequently visits the northeast, said that following the directions of the Prime Minister the central ministers visited the eight states of the region 432 times to take forward the development of the region at par with the other states of India.

Of the 25 Lok Sabha seats in the eight northeastern states, currently 14 (56 per cent) are with the BJP while the Congress has four (16 per cent). The other seats are with the local and regional parties.

Out of the 498 MLAs in the eight northeastern states including Sikkim, the BJP has 183 legislators (36.74 per cent) in six states -- Assam (63 MLAs), Arunachal Pradesh (41), Manipur (32), Tripura (32), Nagaland (12), Meghalaya (2), Mizoram (one).

On the other hand, of the 498 MLAs in these eight states, the Congress has only 48 legislators (9.63 per cent) in six states -- Assam (27 MLAs), Manipur (5), Meghalaya (5), Mizoram (4), Arunachal Pradesh (4) and Tripura (3).

The BJP has no representation in the Sikkim assembly while the Congress has no legislators in the Nagaland and Sikkim assemblies.

The Congress had drawn a blank in the 2018 assembly polls in Tripura and Nagaland.

Though the BJP periodically achieved electoral success in a few northeastern states, the saffron party's first state victory in the region was in Assam in 2016, two years after the Modi government first came to power at the Centre in 2014.

The BJP government at the Centre led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee had created a dedicated central ministry -- Development of North Eastern Region -- in 2004 for the development of the northeast.

Setting up an exclusive ministry - DoNER - for the northeastern region and the BJP's "development mantra" facilitated the party to convince the people of the region that it always gives priority to the development of all sections.

Union DoNER and Tourism Minister G. Kishan Reddy said that in the last nine years, over Rs five lakh crore have been spent to ensure the all round development of the northeastern region.

Reddy said that several mega connectivity projects such as new airports, road projects worth Rs 1.05 lakh crore and rail projects worth Rs 77,930 crore are being executed.

Unlike the Congress regime, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visits to the region more than 60 times and almost all central ministers, MPs' and senior leaders' frequent visits boosted the party to reach newer areas of the mountainous region.

Before Modi, only former Prime Minister H. D. Deve Gowda (1996-96) spent around ten days at a time in the northeastern states and announced several state specific projects and schemes for the development of the region.

Besides the "development mantra", dozens of prominent Congress leaders and thousands of workers quit the party and either joined the BJP or the other parties helped the saffron party to grow in the northeastern states, which were earlier strongholds of the grand old party.

Political pundits said that the BJP leaders considered that the northeast was a virgin territory for the party and it needed to tap into it if it had to grow beyond the Hindi heartland and stay in power at the Centre for long.

When Amit Shah took over as BJP chief, he had emphasised the importance of the northeast, political commentator Sukumar Ghosh said, adding that the 2019 Lok Sabha polls showed the plans were working beyond the dynamics of state politics.

The party and its allies swept the region in the 2019 parliamentary elections.

In a significant step, days after Beijing announced Chinese names for 11 places in Arunachal Pradesh, which the neighbouring country claims as the southern part of Tibet, Union Home Minister Amit Shah on April 10 launched the ambitious "Vibrant Villages Programme (VVP)" at Kibithoo village in Arunachal Pradesh.

The bordering Kibithoo village in Anjaw district shares borders with China and Myanmar.

After launching the VVP, Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu said that today's India is not what it was in 1962, because the country is now led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The VVP would be executed in 2967 border villages in 19 districts adjoining international borders in Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and the UT of Ladakh.

Rs 4800 crores have been allocated for the programme for the financial years 2022-23 to 2025-26.

In the first phase, 662 border villages in four states and the UT of Ladakh have been identified for priority on coverage, which includes 455 villages in Arunachal Pradesh, which shares a 1,080-km border with China, 520 kms with Myanmar and 217 kms with Bhutan.

Besides Arunachal Pradesh's 455 villages, the VVP would be implemented in Himachal Pradesh's 75 border villages followed by 51 villages in Uttarakhand, 46 villages in Sikkim and 35 villages in Ladakh.

Under the centrally-sponsored VVP all round development would be carried out in the identified border villages aiming to improve the quality of life of the people and encourage them to stay there, thereby reversing the migration from these villages and adding to security of the border.

The focus areas of interventions identified for development of the villages include road connectivity, drinking water, electricity including solar and wind energy, mobile and Internet connectivity, tourist centres, multi-purpose centres and healthcare infrastructure and wellness centres.

Due to lack of infrastructure, basic facilities and essential services in the border villages, there is a trend among the villagers to move to the urban and semi-urban areas besides the main cities for livelihood and to improve the living standards.

In 2019 parliamentary polls BJP in Assam increased its tally from seven of 2014 to nine in 2019, across northeast India BJP which won eight seats in the previous parliamentary election (2014) increased the seat tally to 14 in 2019.

Together with allies, BJP won 18 seats out of 25 seats in eight northeastern states, the best ever performance of the saffron party in the region.



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Title: Govt's NE development push enables BJP to reap rich political dividends

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