As Gujarat Battle Nears End, BJP's New Challenge - Mission North East

BJP does not have a single legislator in the 60 member assembly, but even in Manipur they had none, where the party wrested power from the Congress even after coming second in the election.

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As Gujarat Battle Nears End, BJP's New Challenge - Mission North East

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BJP, which did not win any seats in last elections in Tripura, is now the main opposition party

SHILLONG, MEGHALAYA:  Prime minister Narendra Modi is still in election mode and so is his party. After Gujarat, it's time for BJP's mission northeast.

Yesterday, dressed in traditional Khasi and Jaintia dress and Garo head gear - symbolising the three main tribes of the state that is being ruled by the Congress for 15 years, PM Modi launched the BJP campaign. For the early 2018 assembly polls, his first poll promise came all the way from Gujarat. "Recently I have used the sea plane in Gujarat and I think it can be used even in rivers in northeast" PM Modi told in the rally. 

His party does not have a single legislator in the 60 member assembly, but even in Manipur they had none, where the party wrested power from the Congress even after coming second in the election.

The BJP won 21 seats out of the 60 in Manipur, needed another 10 to prove majority. It stitched together the number with support from local parties and an Independent. 

In Tripura too, the BJP did not win a single seat in the last election but is the main opposition party in the assembly after several lawmakers switched sides.

Several Congress MLAs, who had won on anti-Left platform, first joined the Trinamool Congress after their party joined hands with the Left in West Bengal and then they switched over to the BJP after the Mamata Banerjee-led outfit too was seen getting cozying up to the idea of a larger anti-BJP alliance.

BJP and its allies are in power in five states in the northeast. While,  in Arunachal Pradesh it has a government of its own, in Assam and Manipur BJP-led alliance governments are ruling. In Nagaland, ally Naga Peoples' front (NPF) heads the government where BJP is a partner. In Sikkim, the ruling Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) is friendly with the BJP and supports NDA alliance in centre.

PM Modi's eyes are now set on Congress-ruled Meghalaya and Mizoram where he kicked-off the BJP campaign with "vikas" pitch. "Our agenda is development and fast track development. Look at Manipur,  after our government came all trouble are gone. People enjoy night life there these days. Assam was known for slow work culture, now our BJP CM even works at night. It's time for change and time for BJP," PM Modi said at a rally in Meghalaya's capital Shillong. 

All though the turnout at for the rally at Shillong's Pool Ground was low but an opportunity for BJP is resonating.

"For change we are supporting BJP. I used to support Congress but the Chief Minister is from my area, Garo hills, you can go and find out whether there is any development," said Sushil Kumar Koch. 

Another factor is also PM Modi's personal popularity in the region. 

"The youth wants development. It was a Congress bastion but now  it is no more" a young lawyer-turned-BJP activist Nitin Khera told NDTV. 

But will this Modi charisma translate into votes? 

The Congress has hopes since the rally was not a full house - empty chairs did speak a lot.

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"They have their strategy and hold meeting and discussion we have our own strategy, and any body may beegiator who plan to switch over to the BJP and themselves shaky and have no confidence on themselves" said Congress Spokesperson and Meghalaya taxation minister Zenith Sangma told NDTV. 

Meghalaya is not only a strong Congress bastion, but has a history of weak alliances and hung assemblies, and the BJP sees a real chance. Through this rally PM Modi is not only urging the electorate of Meghalaya but sending signals to the two other states in the region -- Mizoram and Tripura --  as all of them will be going to polls in 2018. His mission is clear, BJP wants the whole of northeast.

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