RIGHT IN, LEFT OUT

Agartala, Mar 03: Consolidating its position as a dominant force in the Northeast, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Saturday scripted a huge victory in the CPI-M-held Tripura in alliance with Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT). The BJP, which was hitherto a marginal player in Tripura politics, having failed to clinch even a single seat in the state in the last polls, has already won a majority on its own.
While Meghalaya elected a hung assembly, the BJP is likely to form a government in Nagaland after the independent candidate, the JD(U), which only on March 1 had issued a letter of support to Nagaland CM Zeliang, now said will back the BJP. With the JD(U) and the independent candidate, the BJP-NDPP alliance has 31 seats, which is the majority mark. The BJP had earlier received invitation from NPF leader and Chief Minister T R Zeliang to join the new government. The BJP had parted ways with the NPF just ahead of the polls and joined hands with the newly launched NDPP of Neiphiu Rio.
The Congress, which was in power in Meghalaya since May 2009, failed to win a majority but emerged the single largest party with 21 seats. The Nationalist Congress Party of Sharad Pawar has won one seat. Senior Congress leader Kamal Nath, who was despatched to Shillong to explore ways of forming a Congress government, said the party had necessary support of MLAs to prove its majority on the floor of the Assembly.
Meanwhile, in an address to party workers in BJP headquarters in New Delhi, PM Modi said, “It is a journey from no one to number one, from ‘shoonya to shikhar’ (zero to pinnacle).” He described BJP chief Amit Shah as the “sculptor” of the party’s victory march.
Counting of votes in Tripura, Meghalaya and Nagaland, where elections were held on February 18 and 27, respectively, began Saturday morning. All three states have 60 seats, however, elections were held for 59 seats. While a CPI(M) candidate died in Tripura, a Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) candidate was killed in Meghalaya. In Nagaland, former chief minister Neiphiu Rio won from one seat.
Of the three states, Tripura was the most keenly watched for being the last Left bastion in the country. Sarkar, the 69-year-old outgoing chief minister, has governed Tripura since 1998. A politburo member of CPI-M, he had been at the helm for the fourth consecutive time.
In Agartala town, cries of ‘Jai Siyaram and Bharat Mata ki Jai’ filled the air at the BJP office where national general secretary Ram Madhav declared that his party will form the next government in Tripura.
Besides tapping into the youth, the BJP made aggressive best efforts to break the CPI(M)’s stranglehold in 20 seats reserved for tribals, which possibly turned the ride in its favour. Indicating the extent of BJP’s inroads, the tribal seat of Asharambari has for the time not gone to the CPM. IPFT general secretary Mewat Jamatia has won from the seat with a massive margin of 7,000 votes.
The BJP, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his pointsman Amit Shah, has been aggressively expanding its footprints in the region ever since it came to power in 2014. It already has governments in Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam.
BJP had contested 50 seats in the last assembly polls in 2013 and its candidates forfeited their deposits on 49 seats. However, with just 1.87 per cent of votes, it failed to win any seat in the state. The CPI-M had won 49 of the 55 seats it contested while the Congress managed to win 10 out of 48 seats it contested.
A three-tier security arrangement was made for all the counting centres, said Additional Chief Electoral Officer of Tripura, Tapas Ray.
Earlier, two exit polls had predicted that the BJP will dislodge the CPI(M) in Tripura while a third exit poll claimed a close fight. In Nagaland, two exit polls said the BJP-NDPP alliance will have an edge over the ruling Naga People’s Front. In Meghalaya, one exit poll said the Congress would emerge as the single largest party, while another said Conrad Sangma’s National People’s Party (NPP) would be ahead of the ruling Congress, with the BJP finishing third.
This year, the BJP contested on 50 seats and has left nine seats for ally IPFT. The Congress fielded candidates for all 59 constituencies but one of its candidates withdrew his nomination and joined the BJP. The Trinamool Congress (TMC) fielded 24 candidates.
Meghalaya saw around 84 per cent voting and the contest in the state involves the ruling Congress, BJP, National People’s Party (NPP) and the newly floated People’s Democratic Front. Polling in Williamnagar constituency of the state was countermanded following the death of NCP candidate in an IED blast. In the last assembly elections held in the state in 2013, the BJP had to face a heart-wrenching defeat as it lost all 13 seats it contested with a vote share of just 6.2 per cent. The NPP had won only two seats out of 32 it contested.
Meghalaya Chief Minister Mukul Sangma, who has won from both Songsak and Ampati seats, said the election results were not on expected lines and that he would not reveal their plan vis-a-vis government formation in the state.
People’s Party president Conrad Sangma, however, said the party will form the next government in Meghalaya as the people were in favour of change.”We are hopeful that we will be able to form the government. People are fed up with the corrupt Congress government and looking for a change,” said Sangma, son of veteran leader late P A Sangma.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi had led the party’s charge in this election season, with focus on curbing the anti-incumbency sentiments and retaining power in Meghalaya.
In Nagaland, the BJP contested the polls in alliance with the newly floated Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP), with the two in the fray in 20 and 40 seats, respectively. The Assembly polls witnessed a similar turnout as Meghalaya recorded nearly 75 per cent polling.

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