By Ashis Biswas
It took the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) many years to become the ruling party in Assam, not to mention Tripura, overcoming initial reservations among common people about its North Indian orientation. Having got past the finishing line however, the ruling party has left no stones unturned to ensure that its political supremacy remains unchallenged.
The BJP’s tactics to keep the opposition at bay extend beyond the political arena. The saffron party remains utterly indifferent to opposition charges accusing it of outright favouritism in projecting states like Gujarat, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh as ideal investment destinations.
A similar administrative approach can be seen in securing international financial assistance for states in the Northeast region as well. Example: Assam and Tripura have claimed the bulk of recent World bank/Asian Development Bank long term financial assistance for major new projects. One explanation suggests that having spent so much time and effort to establish a foothold in a region where the main opposition party Congress has weakened over the years, the BJP is in no mood to surrender its present position and endanger its area domination.
This year, World Bank officials agreed to advance $391 million for Assam and Tripura to help local government authorities specific public health, infrastructure and agriculture-related projects — Tripura’s share is $140 million.
This is not to suggest that other non-BJP states in the region will not receive similar aid. Meghalaya stands to receive $40 million to strengthen its public health services sector, while Manipur has been assured of a $46 million aid to develop info-tech development that will lead to much improved digital skills among locals. In both states however, the BJP has been in government already, albeit as a junior coalition partner with more dominant regional parties — for the moment!
Similarly, Mizoram too is in line for a $32 million WB loan for improving its public health facilities. although the Assembly elections have made things difficult here for the BJP : the dominant Mizo National Front(MNF) its senior partner, has distanced itself from the saffron party following recent troubles targeting Christians and other communities in neighbouring Manipur and their negative regional impact.
BJP leaders in other states do not feel their party has behaved in a partisan manner in choosing and finalizing development projects in the NE region. A Kolkata-based leader familiar with the region pointed out that much of the amount would be spent in introducing/adopting new green environment-friendly agricultural production mainly in the tribal areas, seeking to empower 75,000 households.
New highways/major roads about 400 kilometres seeking to improve local connectivity and reduce travelling time for the people would be built .Other production-linked community development projects would directly benefit another 142,000 mostly tribal households. Thus, it would be the economically weaker tribals who would be helped majorly through the new projects, he said.
Not all analysts agree. As one observer saw it, the new tribal party Tipra Motha(TM) has emerged as the strongest tribal force in Tripura and it calls for a separate state for the indigenous communities. Despite promises made by Union Home Minister Mr Amit Shah about examining the demand seriously after the Tripura assembly polls, there has been little progress in the matter.
On the other hand, to make sure that Tripuri tribals do not revert to the 1980s-type armed emergency which led to the killing of hundreds of non tribals, Delhi had to make major concessions.
And there was no better way to win over the economically backward tribals than by economically empowering them through large scale schemes and projects , which would help unemployed youths secure vocational training and open up numerous other new channels of economic expansion . Naturally, it stood to reason that the bulk of the foreign loans should go to the tribals in Tripura. If anything, such decisions would only contribute, not disturb, regional security as well as balanced economic growth.
As for Assam, the emphasis would be on further developing the existing infrastructure in public health system with special stress on the interior areas. The long term objective in the new schemes, which would see an investment of over $280 million in the next few years, is to ensure effective nutrition, growth and greater disease-immunity among the young and the elderly generations as well. Generally, people of Assam had responded well to the massive public transport road and rail infrastructure that had already been built during the past few years.
Assam opposition parties, including Congress, Trinamool Congress, the CPI(M), AIUDF and Raisor dal, etc, totally reject the rosy narratives. . They accuse the present government headed by the BJP and supported by its main ally the Asam Gana Parishad, of encouraging divisive anti/minority policies, widespread corruption, major degradation of the environment, massive official corruption and autocratic policies. Under Mr Himanta Biswa Sarma as the Chief Minister, Assam’s administrative problems/tensions/discord with Meghalaya, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh had all worsened. (IPA Service)