After the successful outcome, comes the hard work. The 3 new governments in the 3 Northeast states – Tripura, Nagaland, and Meghalaya – will confront many old and some new challenges. Here is an overview:
As it sweeps to power in Agartala, the BJP is riding on both anti incumbency against the Left and high expectations. The most likely CM from the party, Biplab Deb, has no administrative experience. Most leaders are first-time MLAs. And they will deal with and resolve a set of policy problems.
1. Unemployment: One of the party’s key planks was the high level of unemployment in Tripura. The BJP put the number at 7.5 lakh – an extraordinarily high figure in a state of less than 4 million people. In a state with poor connectivity, limited educational infrastructure, barely any modern industry, generating jobs will be a key test for the new government.
2. Government salaries: PM Narendra Modi’s personal commitment that BJP will implement the 7th Pay Commission recommendations for Government employees in the state resonated with even old CPM loyalists. They had, till now, still been on the 4th Pay Commission. The BJP will now have to deliver higher salaries, while maintaining fiscal discipline. This will mean finding new sources of revenue or reducing developmental expenditure, both difficult tasks.
3. Managing Bengali-tribal unity: A key achievement of the CPM Government was both maintaining peace and ensuring a degree of Bengali-tribal harmony. The BJP said this came at the cost of tribals, and promised both greater powers to their autonomous district councils and development. The party swept the tribal belt in alliance with a tribal party and will have to deliver to this base. At the same time, it will have to take into account sensitivities of the Bengali majority. This is no easy task in a state which has seen conflict and deep distrust between the 2 communities.
BJP-Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) look set to form the government. Nagland has its own set of political and development challenges, which the new government will have to grapple with:
1. Corruption: It is an almost accepted code in Naga politics that while candidates pay voters during elections, political representatives, once in power, extract a large share of Government funds for their personal coffers. This may seem like a neat transaction, but inflicts a heavy cost. It distorts the political culture. It hampers development. It leaves the state with poor infrastructure. It ensures a deep democratic deficit where people feel their needs are not addressed, leaving room for extremists. If the new government wants to bring ‘development’, it will have to tackle this head-on.
2. Peace process: While the Naga peace process is being dealt with directly by the Centre, the state government will have a role as an important stakeholder. There was a demand that elections be held till a solution is found, but BJP argued that a solution will be found after the election. The Naga framework agreement, the contours of which are not clear, will become an increasingly contentious issue once it is fleshed out. If Naga areas of other states are not included as a part of the solution, NSCN as well as Naga civil society is bound to protest, causing unrest in the state.
3. Employment: Over the past few decades, many Naga students have left the state to pursue educational opportunities in the rest of India. Nagas have also increasingly found space in India’s growing service industry, particularly aviation and hospitality. But the bulk of the youth remain in the state. And their key demand, like that of the youth elsewhere, remains jobs. Getting industry in a somewhat difficult security environment where underground groups form a parallel regime of sorts is a challenge.
Shillong has seen a fragmented verdict and it is not clear if the state will see the return of a Congress-led Government or a coalition which includes BJP. Hectic negotiations are underway in the state to woo smaller parties. Either way, the new government will confront challenges:
1. Coal mining: Mining was central to Meghalaya’s economy, generating revenue and jobs. But the National Green Tribunal banned mining in the state, blaming the state Government for its failure to come up with a coherent mining policy and the impact on the practice on environment. Even as citizens recognised that this was good for future generations, they were unhappy at immediate losses in livelihood. Illegal mining continued. The government has to come up with a policy; it has to reconcile economy and environment; and it has to stop illegal mining.
2. Jobs: The younger people in the state, as in the rest of the region, are desperate for jobs. The Congress Government, to its credit, succeeded in providing law and order. But this unleashed more aspirations. Its young, articulate workforce wants more modern educational facilities, more jobs, and higher incomes.
3. Maintaining social harmony: Meghalaya is a Christian dominated state. The church was apprehensive of the BJP’s possible entry into government. While it is debatable if the church should have had any role in politics, it is important that the future government is sensitive to all communities of the state. Managing regional diversity – between Garo, Khasi, Jaintia Hills – is also key. (Courtesy: HT)