BJP actions may create new problems in North-East

In its zealous pursuit of political power, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has unsettled ground situation in the sensitive north eastern region of the country. Lacking a coherent well-thought out policy, the Modi government and the BJP is fishing in troubled and muddy waters of the north-eastern states creating conditions that may be difficult to control in times to come. Even a casual look at some of the recent developments confirms these apprehensions.  

The Prime Minister’s election speech in Meghalaya referring to his government’s rescue operation of nurses from war-torn Iraq whose faith was Christianity speaks volumes of the politics that is being pursued by the RSS-BJP in the region. Modi’s words reflect a deeply rooted bias that the BJP-RSS has towards other non-Hindu faiths including Christianity.  While it was a direct insult to the people of Meghalaya, the speech reflects a mindset that has the potential of sowing seeds of deep discord impacting the national unity and integrity.

Chief of the Army Staff General Bipin Rawat said on Wednesday last week that All India United Democratic Front has been growing faster than the BJP in Assam. General Rawat’s words were a direct affront to the apolitical nature of our Armed forces and the BJP’s open support was yet another confirmation of the same mindset that believes in excessive use of force to resolve socio-political problems of the country.

Modi can get away with his statement and his defenders may say that it was an election rally and everything is fair in politics and electoral war but can a serving Chief of the Army Staff be condoned for express on issues that are not in his area of competence.

There cannot be any doubt whatsoever about the political intent of General Rawat. His statement was welcomed by the BJP and the Modi government took no exception to it.

While it is a fact that General Rawat, unlike his predecessors, is outspoken and does not mince his words but the government’s failure to restrain him leaves enough room for doubts. Since he has taken charge of the Indian Army on 31 December 2016, the Army Chief has embarrassed the government many a times but the government has consciously overlooked his propensity to speak on subjects that do not fall in his competence.

In Nagaland too, where the Prime Minister and his BJP colleagues campaigned feverishly, there has no clear cut defined policy. In 2016, the BJP-led NDA government had announced that an accord with rebel Naga groups had been reached. News of the historic Naga accord was the talk of the town for several days. When the opposition wanted to know the details of the accord, the government refused to share the same with either the people of the Nagaland or the opposition.

Nagaland voters were surprised when they heard the Prime Minister telling them that his government was working hard to conclude an agreement with rebel groups demanding autonomy on some issues. Confusion notwithstanding, the BJP has been trying to piggy-ride other regional parties to have a stake in power.

In Tripura, the BJP is challenging the Left government of the popular CPM leader and four times Chief Minister Manik Sarkar. The Prime Minister and BJP chief  Amit Shah have spared no trick to make a dent in the state politics. It has encouraged rebellion in other opposition parties like the Congress and the Trinamool Congress and has struck an electoral alliance with a tribal outfit that has been demanding a separate state within Tripura thus encouraging fissiparous tendencies.

In other north-eastern states too like in Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram, the BJP has been deploying short-sighted strategies to find a political foothold. A case in point is the way; the BJP came to form a government in Manipur last year. In assembly elections last year, the Congress party had emerged as the single largest party winning 28 seats in the house of 60 while the BJP had won only 21 seats.

The Governor, contrary to past conventions and well laid practise, invited the BJP leader to form the government instead of giving the chance to the Congress. The BJP had deployed all means including enlisting support of a Congress MLA to reach half way mark. The Modi government in New Delhi had used the office of the governor to usurp power.

Earlier in Arunachal Pradesh bidding good bye to political ethics, the BJP had engineered large-scale rebellion and floor crossing to form a government.  While capturing power by foul and illegal means is the easiest way, such means encourage erosion of values in politics.

The BJP’s real problem in north-east is its core ideology that has been speaking against the Christian missionaries who have been active in this region for over 150 years. The RSS has been working against the missionary activities in the region for many decades now. Similarly, beef eating is popular in north-east and the RSS-BJP has been actively opposing it. Though the BJP leaders have been telling north-eastern people in general and the electorate in particular that they are not opposed to beef but their words don’t carry conviction. Therefore, there is a lingering suspicion and apprehension in popular mind.

Inherent contradictions and short-sighted policy to political power have created uncertainties in people’s perception that is dangerous in the long-term. The BJP may succeed in capturing the political power now thus making short-term gain but unethical and unprincipled policies deployed in the naked pursuit of power are likely to create challenges to the security of the region in times to come.

Dr. Satish Misra is a Veteran Journalist & Research Associate with Observer Research Foundation.