With Tripura, Meghalaya and Nagaland heading for polls, the BJP is eyeing an opportunity in the North East. Speaking to News18.com’s Suhas Munshi, BJP general secretary Ram Madhav explained how his party plans to break the stranglehold of the CPI (M) and Manik Sarkar in Tripura, the situation in Nagaland after the poll boycott call and how in Meghalaya, the party plans to defeat the Congress government and get one step closer its vision of a ‘Congress-mukt North East’.
For most of North East, your primary poll pitch has been that of anti-corruption. Do you think that in a state like Tripura where Manik Sarkar enjoys an image relatively unstained by corruption allegations, a different strategy will have to be adopted?
The CPI (M) has assiduously built a false image, a facade of Chief Minister Manik Sarkar, outside Tripura. In reality, he has run a ‘hinsachaari’ [violent], atyachaari [oppressive] and bhrashtachaari [corrupt], government in Tripura.
Violent politics, oppressive, and largely corrupt administration is what people have experienced in Tripura in all these years. So we have made this as our poll pitch - we have promised to the people of freeing them of hinsachaari, atyachaari and bhrashtachaari government, and providing them with a government that is committed to peace and development.
Why was BJP the first to walk out of the poll boycott call in Nagaland? Do you think that the boycott call was largely unpopular and ineffective?
The boycott call given by various groups in Nagaland, was for a larger cause that is the interest of Naga people. They wanted a solution to the Naga problem. BJP fully supports the initiative taken by the government in holding talks with NSCN (IM) for a solution to the Naga problem.
All that we conveyed to the people of Nagaland was that while we are in favour of an early solution to Naga problem but it cannot be linked with the elections. Election is a constitutional process. The government in state and centre is obligated to undertake this exercise, which is mandated by constitution. Solution and election should be delinked. We should reiterate our commitment to an early conclusion of agreement and BJP is committed to it.
Where does the plan of North-East mukt Congress stand vis-a-vis the three assembly elections in North East? How close will you be to the goal after these elections?
Out of the three states going to polls, Congress has a presence in only one state that is Meghalaya. It is a non-entity in Tripura and Nagaland. We are sure to be back in power in Nagaland. In Tripura, we are very hopeful to put an end to the seven-consecutive-term-misrule of CPI (M). This time we'll be able to form a government with help of our partner IPFT. And as far as Meghalaya is concerned, there will certainly be a non-Congress government in place. That way the one remaining state in Congress’s clutches will also slip out.
Both NDPP and NPF wanted to ally with the BJP in Nagaland. What made you finally go with NDPP and shun your decade-and-a-half old regional ally?
It was essentially about sharing of seats. Our alliance with NPF was old, we have been together for decade-and-a-half. Ideally, we two would have been natural partners, in terms of seat sharing the two partners could not come to an understanding. As a result, we had to opt for an alliance with the other regional party.
Of the three NE states, which do you think will be the most challenging?
The ‘Battle Royale’ is undoubtedly Tripura. Here is a state which has been under Marxist party rule for 25 years now. And the Marxists have mastered the art of manipulating elections. They have got cadres right down to police stations well. They are well-versed in manipulating electoral processes. For BJP it's a challenge to take on this machinery.
Your partner in Tripura, the IPFT, has been talking about a separate Tripuraland. Do you agree with the demand? Is there a clarity between the two parties on this issue? Do you think it may be an issue there, were you to win elections and come to power?
When we got together we decided to have a common understanding on issues and one of the primary issues was that we both together work for a united progressive Tripura.
There is no question of any division of the state. Tripura's territorial integrity is of paramount importance to both of us. While the territorial integrity issue has been committed to by both the parties, we also gave an assurance to tribals of Tripura that their social, economic and cultural problems, will be fully attended to and taken care of once our government is formed.