2024 Poll Play: From Odisha to Nagaland, Why Top BJP Leaders are Focusing on East and North-East

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The last few months have seen top Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders such as Union Home Minister Amit Shah and party chief JP Nadda travel to Odisha, Bengal and Assam frequently.

Picture this: In the last week of September, Nadda visited Odisha for two days. In August, Shah visited Odisha and Nadda is expected to visit the state again in November.

In the coming two days, Shah and Nadda will inaugurate the BJP headquarters in Assam. Sikkim, too, is on Shah’s schedule this time.

In 2023, three states in the North-East — Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya — will go to polls.

Is that the reason behind the visits? Party insiders say while the party will definitely focus on the three states for the Assembly polls, the visits to Odisha and Assam are part of the BJP’s preparation for 2024.

From Odisha to the seven sisters of North-East, the total number of Lok Sabha seats is 88. In 2019, of the 88, the BJP won 40 seats. Sources say the BJP wants to increase this number.

2019 LS POLLS: NUMBERSPEAK

Of the 21 seats in Odisha, the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) won 12, BJP eight and Congress one in the 2019 general elections.

In Assam, of the 14 seats, the BJP won nine, Congress three, All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) one and one seat went to an independent candidate.

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Of the 42 seats in Bengal, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) won 22, BJP 18 and Congress two. The BJP won both the seats in Tripura. In Meghalaya, the Congress won one and National People’s Party (NPP) one; in Manipur, the BJP got one seat, while the Naga People’s Front (NPF) got the other; the Mizoram seat went to the Mizo National Front (MNF).

In Nagaland, the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) won the lone seat; the BJP won both the seats in Arunachal Pradesh; while the Sikkim Krantikari Morcha won the lone seat in the state.

PARTY’s POLL POSITION

Speaking to News18, Swapan Dasgupta, BJP’s Rajya Sabha MP, said, “The presence of the BJP in India should be uniform. We are doing great in Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and states in the west. We are present in the east, but we need to increase it. We have to accept that 18 seats from Bengal in 2019 helped the BJP cross the 300 mark. So we are putting more emphasis on the east to consolidate those votes. We are aiming for all states, even Jharkhand and Bihar.”

A look at the situation in the East and N-E:

ODISHA

Although the BJD is a partner of the BJP in the centre, sources say, the BJP is looking to build its strength in Odisha. Recently, Sunil Bansal, who played a major role in the UP unit, has been given the responsibility of Odisha and Bengal. He has held several meetings in Odisha. So far, there is no second generation leadership in the BJD and the BJP wants to cash in on it.

BENGAL

In 2019, the BJP gave a “super performance” in Bengal, even though they couldn’t snatch power from the TMC in 2021. The BJP wants to retain the 18 seats in 2024.

Speaking to News18, National Spokesperson and TMC MP Kakoli Ghosh Dostidar said, “Every political party has the right to expand. What I heard from Delhi circles is that the BJP is afraid that they will fail in Gujarat, UP and Madhya Pradesh, which is why they are turning to the East. The common man doesn’t like their aggressive attitude.”

Sunil Bansal is the observer for Bengal, too, along with Mangal Pandey.

ASSAM AND 7 SISTERS

With nine seats in 2019 and 2021 win, the BJP wants to retain its position in the state and move ahead. Various Congress MLAs, too, have switched sides.

The party will soon inaugurate the new headquarters in Guwahati. CM Himanta Biswa Sarma is a strong player there and sources say the party wants him to maintain his position.

Apart from Assam, Sarma has influence in the other states in the region, too, which is why the BJP has given him a free hand.

Meanwhile, Manipur CM Biren Singh, Tripura CM Manik Saha, too, are making efforts to strengthen the party.

EXPERTSPEAK

Sambit Pal, Associate Professor, MIT ADT University, said: “Last time, they were successful in West Bengal. They will have to put in extra efforts if they want to retain the same number of Lok Sabha seats from Bengal, especially after they lost to the TMC in the 2021 Assembly elections. The BJP is in a better place in Assam as they are running the government there for the second consecutive term. In Odisha, the BJP has a good ground and is considered to be a natural successor to Navin Pattanaik’s BJD. Apart from looking at the BJP’s plan to expand in the East and North-East through the prism of elections, we must not forget the bigger plan of the Sangh Parivar to expand politically and ideologically, pan India.”

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