Heat on the hills: A look at the assembly polls in three northeastern states and the political war!

India is three weeks into its new year and the political climate between the parties has been scorching in the wake of back to back assembly elections across the country in this year and such tensed climate will culminate during much-bigger battle, the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. Despite the demographics, every assembly poll would be a litmus test for the parties to build their campaigns for the general elections.

The central ruling BJP is all set to compete the 2024 Lok Sabha polls by putting Narendra Modi at the front for the third consecutive time while the opposition parties are yet to display any plausible threats to the BJP. In 2023, the country would be witnessing the assembly polls in nine states and as the first leg of the year-long elections, the parties would be battling in a political war in northeast. 

Three northeastern states of Nagaland, Meghalaya, and Tripura would be going to polls in the first quarter of 2023. On Wednesday - January 18, the Election Commission of India has officially announced the election dates and schedules for three states. Addressing a press conference, Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar said, "Voting for Assembly elections in Tripura will be held in a single phase on February 16 and in Nagaland and Meghalaya on February 27. The results will be declared on March 2." 

The terms of the current assemblies in Nagaland, Meghalaya, and Tripura are coming to an end on March 12, 15, and 22 respectively. These three states have 60 assembly seats each and by citing that these three states have terrain-related challenges, Rajiv Kumar asserted that the Election Commission is committed to conducting free and fair polls. While all three states will go for a single phase election, Tripura will have a different election schedule comparing to its neighbours. 

According to the Election Commission's announcement, the filing of nominations in Tripura will begin on January 21 and the last date of filing nominations is January 30. The nominations will be scrutinized on January 31 and the last date to withdraw the nominations is February 2. Tripura will go for the polls on February 16 and the results will be declared on March 2. 

On the other hand, the the filing of nominations in Meghalaya and Nagaland will begin on January 31 and the last date of filing nominations is February 7. The nominations will be scrutinized on February 8 and the last date to withdraw the nominations is February 10. Meghalaya and Nagaland will go for the polls on February 27 and the results will be declared on March 2. Rajiv Kumar further said that with the announcement of election schedule, the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) has come into effect in three poll-bound states. 

In Nagaland, BJP is part of the ruling alliance and the party has 12 MLAs out of 60 seats. While there has been no major crackdown in the alliance, the BJP would probably give promises to stem out the issues like unemployment in the state and to address the demands from many Naga organizations to remove the Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA) from the state and the push for the creation of Frontier Nagaland, made up of 16 districts from seven tribal groups, would be a key factor in the Nagaland polls. 

In Tripura, the state is being by BJP with 33 seats out of 60 and it would one of the crucial northeastern states where the BJP would face a political heat with a good deal of fight from the opposition and with the emergence of Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress in the state. Mamata Banerjee has been expanding her political landscape beyond West Bengal after winning the state for the third consecutive time in 2021. The current and immediate opposition for the BJP in the state is the Marxist Communist party and the latter has been conducting door to door campaign in the state against the BJP's propaganda. 

The BJP, with the view of mitigating the anti-incumbency wave, has changed the Chief Minister in Tripura like how it did in Karnataka and Gujarat. The party has removed Biplab Kumar Deb from the office and appointed Manik Saha as the Chief Minister. As Manik Saha assumed the office on May 15, 2022, it is likely that he would be the BJP's chief ministerial face in the state. Earlier, there have been several defects against the ruling BJP alliance. 

The Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA), which constitutes of National People's Party (NPP), United Democratic Party (UDP), BJP, and People's Democratic Front (PDF), is ruling the state with 33 MLAs out of 60. NPP's Conrad Sangma is the Chief Minister. Like in Tripura, Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress would pose a battle against the BJP in Meghalaya as she has asked the people of Meghalaya to overthrow the proxy BJP government in the state. 

On Wednesday, Mamata Banerjee was addressing a rally at Mendipathar in the North Garo Hills district of Meghalaya during which she said, "I came here to tell you that TMC is the only party that can give you better governance and help achieve the dreams of the youth, the students, and the women." As the political parties are on the battlefield and as the election dates are announced, the first leg of the year-long elections, with the political heat on the hilly states, would be no short of displaying the best political battle ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.