North-east India has now posed a challenge for both the political parties in the wake of the Lok Sabha polls as their prestige is at stake
As India prepares to exercise its franchise to elect the next prime minister on April 11, focus should be stressed over the country’s north-eastern region in concomitance with other Indian states.
The issues overhanging this region are different from the rest of the country.
North-east India consists of an overall 25 seats. Since 1952, this region has been held firmly by the Congress. But since 2014, there has been erosion in Congress’s power base.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi swept over Assam in the Lok Sabha polls by winning 7 out of the overall 14 seats.
In the 2016 Legislative Assembly elections, the BJP broke fresh grounds by installing a government in Assam. The feat has been henceforth, repeated in other north-eastern states and Congress has been rendered powerless as of now.
Citizenship Amendment Bill
The BJP rode to power in Assam by promising to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955.Consequently, the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha on July 2016.This amended bill which drew a huge controversy from sizeable quarters of Northeast India seeks to grant Indian citizenship to Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, and Parsis who have fled Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan to escape persecution.
The bill was passed in the Lok Sabha at the beginning of January, 2019. However, the BJP government threw a surprise by putting the bill on hold in the Rajya Sabha on February 2019. Anti-bill leaders hailed it as their victory. However, there is no denying that the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill pushed north-east India into chaos.
North-east India has now posed a challenge for both the political parties in the wake of the Lok Sabha polls as their prestige is at stake. The BJP is desperately trying to strengthen its grip over this region and pull off a landslide victory over 20 seats.
On the other side, the Congress is serious to make a comeback. It needs to get back its traditional stronghold.
On February 27, Congress President Rahul Gandhi criticized the BJP and its ideological mentor, Rashtriya Swayamsevek Sangh (RSS) to the last degree while addressing a gathering in Assam. He alleged that BJP and RSS are making efforts to destroy the history, culture, and language of northeast India. He also reminded the gathering of Congress’s bid to block the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in the Rajya Sabha, which is the Upper House of India’s Parliament.
“The Citizenship [Amendment] Bill is an anti-north-east bill. It is against the culture, language and history of the region. All states are important to us. Different identities and languages make India. All people should get a place in India and progress together,” Rahul Gandhi said.
Scrapping the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is Congress’s vital poll agenda in north-east India as the party has clearly stated the matter in its poll manifesto released on April 2.
The party has also promised that no Indian citizen shall be excluded from the National Register of Citizens (NRC) if it comes to power.
On April 3, Rahul Gandhi reiterated the party’s official stand on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in Nagaland’s Dimapur district.
Apart from this, he strongly accused the Modi-led BJP Government and RSS of trying to force their ideology on India.
“The Congress and I will not allow the Naga way of thinking and their way of life to be crushed,” Gandhi said.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi evaded the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill and National Register of Citizens (NRC) issue altogether in all his rallies addressed in north-east Indian states so far.
Instead, he chose to spoke on issues on developmental projects claimed to be undertaken during his regime and the Congress’s “failures” to live up to its commitment made towards the region.
Addressing a gathering at Arunachal Pradesh’s East Siang district on April 3, the prime minister said: “The Congress promised to provide electricity to every household in Arunachal in 2004 but it remained incomplete till 2014. We completed it in five years. The Congress manifesto in the past was only election promises which they never fulfilled but our government is turning promises into reality.”
He did not fail to state that it was during the tenure of BJP, under the leadership of deceased former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, a separate ministry for north-east India was formed.
Apart from this, Modi listed his achievements.
“I had the good fortune to add Arunachal Pradesh to the country’s railway map, Pasighat and Itanagar to the Smart City list, and complete the Dhola-Sadiya and Bogibeel bridges,” Modi said.
The Communist Party of India – Marxist (CPI-M) is training their guns on the BJP specifically.
While addressing a gathering in Tripura’s capital Agartala on April 3, former chief minister Manik Sarkar said: “The current prime minister had made a lot of promises to check high inflation and corruption. He also gave assurance to stop farmer’s suicide by giving them subsidy and ancillary facilities. But in reality, around 1.8 lakh farmers committed suicide in the last five years owing to the Central Government’s anti-farmer policies.”
Manik Sarkar also accused the BJP government of trying to polarize the voters in the garb of religion.
“They are spewing communal hatred among different communities of the country,” Sarkar alleged.