Congress has "no hope" in Northeast anymore; here's why

Sayantan Ghosh
04 May 2022
Congress has "no hope" in Northeast anymore; here's why

In Assam, two major political changes have occurred in the last month. Firstly, the former Assam Congress chief joined the Mamata Banerjee-led TMC. Secondly, the Aam Aadmi Party won two seats in the Gauhati Municipal elections. In the same election, the Congress Party could not open its book. This shows how the Indian National Congress is losing ground in its once-strong bastion, the North East. Meanwhile, the BJP is not only working in the Northeast but is also putting a lot of emphasis on it.

Which, on the one hand, demonstrates the importance of the North East and, on the other, demonstrates what is exactly wrong with the Congress Party in terms of its political priorities.

How Is Congress Becoming Irrelevant in the Northeast?

Previously, the Congress party ruled seven of the eight Northeastern states. The Congress party, on the other hand, has suffered a significant decline in the region since the rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Elections for two Rajya Sabha seats in Assam, one in Tripura, and one in Nagaland were recently held. The Congress Party did not win a single seat in this election. This defeat was largely the result of shameful cross-voting by the grand old party's legislators. The significance of this outcome is that now the Congress party has zero representation from the northeastern region of India. The state of Assam has seven Rajya Sabha seats, and the other seven states have one seat each. The Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies currently hold all 14 seats.

Similarly, over the years, the Congress party has lost the Lok Sabha seats from the northeastern states. These seven states have a total of 25 Lok Sabha seats, with the Congress party holding four seats and the BJP holding 14 seats, the most of any political party. In the northeastern states, five seats are held by the regional parties which are part of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led NDA. There is one seat held by the All India United Democratic Front of Maulana Badruddin Ajmal.

Why Is Assam Crucial For The Congress And BJP?

In this political equation of the north-eastern states, Assam plays a very important role for the Bharatiya Janata Party. The BJP has nine seats from Assam out of 14 across the seven states. Meanwhile, Himanta Biswa Sarma, the chief minister of Assam, is the key political strategist for the BJP in the northeastern states. People believe that the reason behind the BJP's success in the states is Sharma‘s strategy and credibility as a political leader. Right now, the Congress party is not even an opposition political party in any of the northeastern states except Assam. However, the recent entry of the Aam Aadmi Party and the Trinamool Congress raises concerns about the grand old party's future in Assam.

What Is The Significance Of The Recently Held Guwahati Civic Poll?

The recently held Guwahati municipal corporation election outcomes are significant to understanding the issue with the Congress party in the state of Assam. The Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies have won 58 out of 60 wards in this election. The Aam Aadmi Party, led by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, and the Assam Jatia Parishad each won one seat.

Significantly, the congress party which is the main opposition party in the Assam legislative assembly and has 29 seats out of 126 came third in most of the municipal wards and also drew a blank. Both the Aam Aadmi Party and the AGP have Muslim candidates. Assam has a significant population of Muslims. The state also has a significant population of Bengalis. These Bengali-speaking people are Hindus and Muslims.

The Bharatiya Janata Party lost in two Muslim-dominated wards in the Guwahati municipal elections. To be more specific, these are migrant Muslim-dominated areas where Congress has always been extremely powerful. However, the outcome of the municipal polls shows that these migrant Muslims in Assam are also now trying to explore new alternatives to the grand old party. The Congress party in the state of Assam has already lost a significant number of Muslim votes due to the emergence of the AIUDF and the division between these two parties.

How Is Congress Losing The Support Of The Minorities?

Earlier, the Congress party used to hold this Bengali population as their key voter base. However, with time, the Bengali Hindu population's vote has shifted to the Bharatiya Janata Party. The Bengali Muslim population vote a divided between the congress and the all India United Democratic front. According to the 2011 census, the state of Assam has a Muslim population of approximately 35%. According to the data, migrant Muslims were major voters in around 33 seats.

The AIUDF is a relatively new political party in Assam politics, having been founded in 2005. In the last few polls, the Congress party and the AIUDF came together to avoid the division of the Muslim votes. However, in the most recent assembly elections, both political parties saw a decrease in their vote share. The AIUDF's vote share fell from 13% to 9%, while Congress' vote share fell from 31% to 30%. With the emergence of the Aam Aadmi Party and the Trinamool Congress, there is a chance that the Muslim vote share of the state might again go down due to the division between these four parties.

How Is Infighting In Congress Affecting The Party Across the Northeast?

Since 2014, there has been a significant increase in intra-party fighting within the Congress party in the northeast's seven states. Today, the majority of top Bharatiya Janata Party leaders in the Northeast are former Congress Party leaders. Manipur Chief Minister Biren Singh, who won a significant and historic victory in the recently held assembly election and became the state's chief minister for the second time, was previously a member of the Congress party. Similarly, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma was a member of the Congress Party. All the political parties like the Aam Aadmi Party and the Trinamool Congress are trying to increase their base in the Northeast by depending on the rebel and disenchanted leaders of the Congress party. The joining of former congress president of Assam, Ripun Bora to Trinamool congress exposes this reality of increasing infighting within the congress again.

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