AGARTALA / KOHIMA / SHILLONG: The counting of votes begins at 8 this morning for the assembly elections in three northeastern states: Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura. The BJP says it hopes to form a government in all three, overthrowing the CPI Left (M) party of Tripura and the Meghalaya Congress. This week, two exit polls gave the BJP a good chance to end the 20-year career of Manik Sarkar of the CPI (M) as Prime Minister of Tripura, while a third predicted a close fight. The exit polls also predicted that the BJP and its regional partner will win Nagaland, while they showed tight competition between Congress and the National People’s Party in Meghalaya.
Here is the guide of 10 points for the verdict of the elections in the northeast:
- The three states have 60 seats each and a party needs 31 to win a majority and form a government. The votes are being counted by only 59 seats in Meghalaya and Tripura, with the elections canceled in a seat in each state due to the death of the candidates.
- “If we win Tripura and if we can recover Nagaland, we have a government in Meghalaya, then our expansion in the northeast will be complete, except for Mizoram, today it will be a great day,” said Himanta Biswa Sarma, strategist from the Northeast of BJP, to NDTV before the counting of votes.
- If it wins in all three states today, the BJP will further consolidate its position in the northeast, recently reinforced by the party that forms the government in Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh. The seventh state of the northeast, Mizoram, governed by Congress, will vote later this year.
- The CPM admits that the BJP has stretched it in a tough battle, but has affirmed that Manik Sarkar, famous as the “poorest prime minister” of the country, will win a fifth consecutive term in Tripura.
- It is a crucial election for the Left party that is now in power only in Tripura and Kerala after the Prime Minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, ended her three-decade rule in West Bengal seven years ago.
- Also desperate for not letting the number of states that keeps decreasing even more is the Congress, whose Mukul Sangma has struggled with dissent in the run up to the elections.
- The BJP and its regional state allies, such as the National People’s Party (PNP), founded by the former president of Lok Sabha, PA Sangma, and the United Democratic Party argue separately. The PNP is seen as the toughest challenger in Congress.
- If Meghalaya votes in a hung assembly, as it has done in all but one of the elections, the BJP and its regional partners in the Northeast Democratic Alliance could quickly announce a post-election alliance as seen in the Manipur elections of the year past.
- The election of the Nagaland assembly is seen as a battle between Prime Minister TR Zeliang of the NPF and his predecessor Neiphiu Rio, once his colleague but who has now launched his own party, the NDPP (Democratic Progressive Nationalist Party). The BJP, which was in power in Nagaland in alliance with the NPF, has now partnered with Mr. Rio.
- The vote was held in Tripura on February 18, and in Nagaland and Meghalaya on February 27.