Indian PM Narendra Modi addresses supporters at BJP headquarters in New Delhi in March 2017.  Photo: Reuters/ Adnan Abidi
Indian PM Narendra Modi addresses supporters at BJP headquarters in New Delhi in March 2017. Photo: Reuters/ Adnan Abidi

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) electoral juggernaut continued as another chief minister allied to the party was sworn in today. This is significant given India will have a national election in May 2019.

With Conrad Sangma sworn in today as chief minister of Meghalaya, a state in Northeast India, the BJP will have or share control of 21 of the country’s 29 states.

But this win throws up difficult questions for the ruling national party.

Although BJP only won two seats in the Meghalaya Assembly Elections held on February 27, it stitched up an effective alliance with other regional parties to create a coalition government and snatch the state from the Congress Party.

The Meghalaya government will now be headed by the National People’s Party (NPP), which won 19 seats. The coalition government will also include United Democratic Party (six seats), People’s Democratic Front (four seats), Hill State People’s Democratic Party (two seats), BJP (two seats) and one Independent winner.

‘Big money bought an opportunistic alliance’

But Congress did not take this outcome well, given it won the most seats of any party – 21 – in Meghalaya. Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi welcomed the people’s mandate but slammed BJP for creating an “opportunistic” alliance.

Gandhi accused BJP of using monetary means to get control of the Northeastern state. “With just two seats, the BJP has usurped power in Meghalaya, through a proxy. Like in Manipur and Goa, showing utter disregard for the mandate of the people. Obsessed instead with grabbing power, using big money to create an opportunistic alliance,” he tweeted.

But Congress did not achieve a majority with its 21 seats, nor did the other parties. This resulted in a hung state assembly and BJP was able to create a post-poll alliance despite Congress’ best efforts.

BJP’s increasing footprint across the country is a big boost for the party ahead of the 2019 national election. BJP party president Amit Shah claimed their win in the Northeast was the outcome of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s policies and will set the course for upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

The Modi-led BJP government has increased the number of states it rules independently or in coalitions almost fourfold since it came to power in 2014.

The party has also dramatically increased its footprint in the Northeast as it swept Tripura, after 25 years of communist rule, and also formed a coalition government in Nagaland. Congress, on the other hand, drew a blank in Nagaland, despite winning eight seats in the previous assembly elections.

BJP, perceived to be a Hindi heartland party, now has six out of seven Northeastern states in its bag, while Congress has just Mizoram.

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