Rise of NEDA as Congress falls in North East?

Behold! In an attempt to ‘cleanse’ the Northeast of the Indian National Congress, the ruling BJP has aligned with eleven non-Congress political parties to form ‘NEDA”: North East Democratic Alliance.

BJP and other leaders are in a huddle in Guwahati, Assam. NEDA would take another couple of days to announce its Guwahati Declaration. The decision to form NEDA was taken  after Sarbananda Sonowal took oath as Assam’s first BJP chief minister in May. Eleven non-Congress parties are a part of the alliance.

“The political objective of NEDA is to have a non-Congress government in each state of the Northeast within a year. We have to carry forward Narendra Modiji’s policy of sabka saath sabka vikas. Our immediate target is to remove the Congress in Manipur (elections in 2017) and Meghalaya (2018). In the 2019 general elections, we will make sure that all the 25 MPs from the Northeast (including Sikkim) are from us (Neda),” said convener of the alliance Himanta Biswa Sarma, who spoke before party president Amit Shah.

Anyway, the Congress has never ever been a ‘favourite’ in Sikkim, which has consistently voted for the regional Sikkimese parties. However, Sikkim has always been neutral when it came to regional politics. Pawan Chamling’s open siding with the BJP has raised several eyebrows among the people who matter in the former Himalayan kingdom’s Bhutia-Lepcha community, we hear.

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Shah said the steps taken by the Modi government so far were for dispelling the sense of alienation among people in the Northeast through improvement in connectivity.

Besides Shah and BJP’s two national general secretaries, Ramlal and Ram Madhav, there are three chief ministers — Sonowal, (Assam), T.R. Zeliang (Nagaland) and Pawan Chamling (Sikkim), two former chief ministers — Zoramthanga (Mizoram) and Donkupar Roy (Meghalaya) — National People’s Party president Conrad Sangma (Meghalaya), the BJP’s allies in Assam — AGP president Atul Bora, Bodoland People’s Party chief Hagrama Mohilary, and Ganashakti president Ronuj Pegu addressed the conclave.

Union minister of state for home affairs Kiren Rijiju, DoNER minister Jitendra Singh and Union minister of state for railways Rajen Gohain also spoke.

Shah said the Northeast did not get the desired attention from the Congress governments at the Centre in the past although the region is full of possibilities. “Neda will play a significant role in the development of the region,” he vowed.

He said the BJP was committed to ensuring the safety of the region from the external threats, including infiltration from the neighbouring country, the major concern among indigenous people.Sonowal said the Neda platform would be utilised on how the indigenous people and the government would fight infiltration and the threat from ‘religious fundamentalists’ in the Northeast.

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Nagaland chief minister T.R. Zeliang appealed to all parties under Neda to keep the spirit of coalition alive. “No matter how small or big our coalition partners are, we should keep the spirit of coalition alive and should not attempt to lure them to merge with one’s political party,” he said.