Modi wave: BJP makes it big in Manipur as economy trumps politics in the northeastern state

Namrata Tripathi
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The Narendra Modi wave seems to have worked its magic in Manipur, with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) securing more than 20 seats in the 2017 Assembly elections. It appears that Modi's promise of ending the economic blockade in the state has gone a long way in securing the BJP win.

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BJP's record of securing state assembly seats in the northeastern state has been dismal with the party winning only one seat in the last elections held in 2012. However, the party has made a remarkable entry in the state elections this year by touching the nerve of the citizens -- the economic blockade.

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Manipur has been crippled by an economic blockade since November 2016. The bock off is spearheaded by the United Naga Council (UNC), to protest the creation of Sadar Hills and Jiribam districts. The UNC feels that the creation of new districts will hamper the interests of the Naga ethnic group members. However, the state authorities defend the move stating that the new districts are created to better administrative convenience.

Modi, while kicking off the BJP campaign in Imphal in February, had promised to come up with a solution to the continuing economic blockade in the state if BJP comes to power.

"BJP government will be formed in Manipur and once we come into power, we won't allow blockades to continue in the state. We promise that and we will show how the administration functions," the Prime Minister had said.

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The blockade in the northeastern state has resulted in price inflation, shortage of food, fuel, medicines, gas and other essential supplies. The presence of police in the region has increased and around 4,000 personnel of central paramilitary forces have been sent to the state by the Central government. Many towns in the state also remain under curfew.

BJP making fast inroads into northeastern states

The rise of the Modi wave has seen a continuing plummet of Congress in many states, and now the party is making inroads to the states where it never secured a strong footing in the past—the northeastern region. Most of the northeast has been ruled by Congress for decades; however with its promise to bring change in the region and to find a permanent solution to the problem of illegal migration, BJP's foray into the states has struck good luck.

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BJP's first major victory in the northeast was with Assam in 2016, which has been a key Congress stronghold, and the party eventually went on to win Arunachal Pradesh too. With significant number of seats from Manipur in its bag, the saffron party is now eyeing Meghalaya and Mizoram with vows of development in the region. The assembly elections of these two states are scheduled to be held in 2018.

Promise of development in the area is the biggest factor for BJP's win. The states in the northeast have seen a very slow rate of development with rampant corruption and violence. Many people in the northeastern states feel that the Congress rule has not done much good to them and they want a change. The fact that the northeastern states are heavily dependent on Central funds for development works in the region is also a key factor for the BJP making it big in the region.

BJP, however, will have to tread carefully in these states by forgoing measly political gains and considering regional sentiments and sensibilities as one of its key considerations, to clinch a clear win.

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