The North-East has given the BJP big reason to celebrate this election season. The party has retained Tripura with its ally Indigenous Peoples Front of Tripura, overcoming the anti-incumbency factor and having taken the gamble of changing its chief minister just 10 months before the polls. In Nagaland it continues to be junior partner of NDPP with 2018’s 40:20 seat-sharing formula and the understanding that Neiphiu Rio will continue be the face of the government. In the third state, Meghalaya, BJP will help incumbent Chief Minister Conrad Sangma’s National People’s Party with its 2 seats to make-up the shortfall, other than the support he gets from United Democratic party. Predictably, the other national parties haven’t been able to stop the BJP’s rise in the region with Left-Congress winning only 14 seats, the TMC, Forward Bloc, CPI and RSP none in Tripura; in Meghalaya, Congress and TMC winning just 5 seats each and in Nagaland the Congress only one and NCP 7 seats. At same time, the results show that regional parties have recognised to align with the dominant party in New Delhi, as well that the electorate is open to give a chance to new entrants and faces.
Such as in Tripura, Pradyot Kishore Debbarma’s Tipra Motha, which calls itself saviour of ‘indigenous people’ and promises a ‘Greater Tipraland’ has bagged 13 seats. The party has replaced the IPFT as the most prominent tribal party, shrugged alliance offers with BJP and CPM and cut into their votes. He will be a force to reckon with. In Nagaland, two women, Hekhani Jakhalu and Salhoutuonuo Kruse created history by being the first elected women legislators in 60 years of statehood. The two belong to the ruling NDPP, whose President Rio has broken record of veteran leader SC Jamir, who was CM thrice. In Tripura, the BJP is to take a call whether to replace Manik Saha with Pratima Bhoumik, MoS for Empowerment and Social Justice, making her the first woman CM. And in Delhi, BJP headquarters had Modi addressing jubilant cadres: “It’s a time for a new history and new era as peace, prosperity, stability and development flourishes in the northeast. When I visited the region recently, I was told that I had visited the northeast 50 times. By frequently going there, I won their heart. And it’s a big win for me.” Indeed, as the BJP’s determined drive to win carries on after Manipur, Assam, and Arunachal Pradesh, decimating the Congress.
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Relief For Congress
The Congress stands defeated in the north-east alright, but byelections in three other States have given some cheer in the grand old party’s camp. Its candidate Ravindra Dhangekar hit the BJP hard in its stronghold of Pune, its 28 year stronghold in Maharashtra by defeating its candidate by over 10,800 votes. Additionally, the victory was doubly celebrated in the MVA camp as Ravindra was its common candidate and the results were being seen as a warning signal to BJP-Shiv Sena (Shinde group) for the upcoming civic elections. In fact, the Uddhav Thackeray camp was particularly upbeat as the BJP was instrumental in breaking up his party.
Likewise, in West Bengal, the Congress, backed by Left Front was able to give a big blow to ruling TMC in its bastion of Sagardighi, with its candidate Byron Biswas defeating Mamata Banerjee’s relative Debashish Banerjee by over 22,000 votes. While Congress will have its lone member in the Assembly, at least it’s better than none (2021 elections), besides it may be encouraging the minority vote has come back. In Tamil Nadu, Congress’ EVKS Elangovan, who was DMK-led Secular Progressive Alliance (SPA) candidate was victorious against AIADMK’s in Erode constituency. Chief Minister Stalin chose to bill it as an endorsement of his near two-year-old government’s “Dravidian model” of governance, at his birthday celebrations. But more importantly for the Congress it was strengthening its ties with the southern party. Perhaps, all is not lost.
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Three cheers to Supreme Court! In a unanimous landmark judgement, aimed at ensuring ‘purity of election’ or else it would lead to ‘disastrous consequences’, ruled for an ‘independent’ Election Commission with its members no longer being appointed by the Council of Ministers. A five-bench constitution bench on Thursday last said appointment of Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners will be done by President on recommendation of a panel, consisting of Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha (if none, then leader of single largest opposition party) and Chief Justice of India. It refused to accept the government counsel’s argument that “the mechanism (of appointment by government) is so robust that no one can go rogue except for stray incidents. These stray incidents can’t be a ground for the court to interfere”. But it did for good reasons: ‘unrelenting abuse’ of electoral process over a period of time is ‘surest way to the grave of democracy.’; the tearing hurry with which an ex-bureaucrat was appointed EC; criminalisation of politics; and while the Constitution envisaged a law by Parliament for procedure of appointment it ‘hasn’t been done in the last 72 years, leading to exploitation by the Centre.’ Firmly it said its direction will continue to hold good till a law is made by Parliament. The big question is how much longer will it take to act? Time for our legislators to reflect and save democracy.
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Delhi’s Power Game
Delhi is to have two new ministers. A strategy of AAP Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to battle corruption charges against his two trusted lieutenants Manish Sisodia and Satyendar Jain, both of whom are behind bars. Their resignations were accepted on Tuesday and their replacement by MLAs Atishi and Saurabh Bhardwaj respectively sent to Lieutenant Governor Saxena. On Thursday last, the LG recommended the same to the President. A statement read: “Since at any given time, there can be only 6 Ministers in Delhi, their appointment will become effective only once the resignation of Sisodia and Jain sent to the President, just a day before on 28.02.2023, is accepted.” Is there going to be a hitch, as this strategy of resignations may go down well with the people?
Kejriwal it may be noted has taken rather long to get Jain, in jail since May last, to resign. Sisodia arrested by CBI in the Delhi excise policy case on Sunday last, did the needful rather fast. And while the BJP has stepped up its attack and said its efforts to get their ouster have borne fruit, the AAP rejects the charges and allegations. Sisodia’s resignation letter said the allegations were ‘lies’ perpetuated by people who were ‘scared of Arvind Kejriwal’s politics of truth’… “I am not their target, you are. Because today not only Delhi, the people of the whole country view you as a leader who has a vision for the country and by implementing that vision, also has the ability to bring big changes in the lives of the people.” Indeed, there may be more than meets the eyes.—INFA