LS Polls 2019: Will Citizenship Amendment Bill Row Cost BJP in NE?

The North-East Democratic Alliance is in power in all the states in the North East. 

3 min read

If there is one region in India where the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) have made unprecedented gains, it is in the eight states of India's North-East. The North-East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) is in power in all the states in this region.

Will that translate into a big NEDA win in the 25 Lok Sabha seats across these states or will the Congress and other regional parties hold them back after the controversy over the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) and other specific issues?

Karma Paljor, Editor-in-Chief,, political analyst Deepak Diwan and Adam Saprinsanga, Editor of The Frontier Despatch joined in on the discussion.

The Row Over the Citizenship Amendment Bill

Paljor pointed out that the BJP has just come into the North-East states, set up alliances and even bought some of the leaders. It has not really grown at the grassroots. Moreover, the party has many leaders who have moved from other parties, Paljor said, giving the example of what happened in Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura.

Paljor went on to say that he did not think the Citizenship Amendment Bill controversy had made any dent in the BJP’s support, adding that as the election fever caught on, people had moved on because there were other issues now that were important to them.

Saprinsanga said that in Arunachal and to some extent in Nagaland it was money power that does the trick for parties, while in some states, there were very strong regional parties that could hold their own against a Congress or a BJP. He said that on polling day, he had seen that the Citizenship Amendment Bill was not really on people's minds and that they were more concerned with the quality of the candidates. It is very hard to read the voters this election, he said.

On the issue of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), Diwan said that the people of Assam were happy that the NRC had been started finally but outright rejected the Citizenship Amendment Bill, because while the NRC put the deadline at 1971, the former spoke about Muslims and put the deadline at 2014.

Diwan added that before the Citizenship Amendment Bill was brought into the picture, Amit Shah had claimed that they would win 21 out of the 25 total Lok Sabha seats in the region, but he would not be able to claim that anymore.

On whether AFSPA not being lifted in Manipur was a polling issue, Saprinsanga said that it would not play much of a role and was making very little impact on the minds of voters. It has mostly died down, he reiterated.

The Chinese Threat

Paljor said that in Sikkim, the fear of Chinese infiltration was not a big issue, because the people were confident that the army was there and would protect the borders. For this reason, the fear of China would not work as an election pitch for Modi to come and say that he should be elected if they wanted the China threat to be curbed.

Moreover, in Sikkim, people do not believe in the national parties and the play is mostly between the two regional parties, Sikkim Democratic Front and Sikkim Krantikari Morcha.

However, Paljor added that in Arunachal, the fear of a Chinese infiltration was a pertinent issue and people are insecure about the borders there. Of late, the government of India has gone in and they are making military installations, crores of compensation has been paid to the people, which has certainly helped the BJP make inroads into these remote locations, he said. However, these remote locations do not have the kind of population needed to win an election, he added.

How Many Seats for NEDA?

On whether 21 or 22 seats for the NEDA in North-East is a realistic expectation, Paljor said he expected a maximum of 15 seats out of the 25.

Diwan said that the local parties would be fence-sitters, looking at whatever party forms the government at the Centre and could possibly shift their alliance to the ruling party in Delhi.

Saprinsanga said that BJP would have a larger share of the seats as opposed to the local parties, agreeing that the latter would most likely be fence-sitters. He estimated that the NEDA would win roughly around 15 seats in the North-East.

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