Despite voting outstandingly for the NDA, and especially the BJP, the Northeast India continues to remain “under-represented” in Modi 2.0 government.
Only two junior ministers –Kiren Rijiju from Arunachal Pradesh and Rameswar Teli from Assam–were inducted on Thursday in Modi’s 58-member council of ministers.
People in Northeast had expected that with the growing number of MPs, at least three to four ministers would be picked up from the region.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha election, the BJP had won only eight seats in the northeast, and two ministers – Sarbananda Sonowal and Kiren Rijiju were inducted as ministers of state.
Sonowal was allocated independent portfolios of Sports and Skill Development. Later, when Sonowal took over as the Chief Minister of Assam, another BJP MP from Assam, Rajen Gohain was picked up as the junior Railway minister.
This time, the BJP got a larger mandate in the Northeast. Despite being hounded for the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016, the BJP managed to win 14 seats in the region.
In addition to the 14 seats of BJP, it was a shot in the arm for Narendra Modi in Northeast when three NDA partners —NDPP, NPP and the MNF won three seats each and extended unanimous support to him as the next Prime Minister.
While there were a lot of expectations that Agatha K. Sangma, the NPP MP from Tura would be inducted as a minister, the BJP leadership in Assam also had expected that the fire-brand leader Himanta Biswa Sarma may find a place in the union cabinet.
Sarma, who resigned from the Congress before the 2014 election to join the saffron party, shouldered the Herculean task of making the lotus bloom in the northeast. He has been highly efficient as a minister in Assam for almost two decades.
Sarma’s contribution in making the BJP spread its roots in the northeast is immense. At present, four states in the northeast — Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Tripura are being ruled by the BJP.
The three other states — Nagaland, Meghalaya and Mizoram are being ruled by NDA partners.
Because of Sarma’s tireless efforts, the BJP could register victory in nine seats in the 17th Lok Sabha election in Assam. During the month of January and February, there was a strong people’s movement against the BJP’s move to introduce the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016.
Moreover, Sarma contribution in establishing the BJP in the north-eastern states of Tripura and Manipur is worth mentioning.
There were expectations that Modi would pick up at least one minister from either Manipur or Tripura. While the BJP won one seat in Manipur, the saffron party registered victory in both the Lok Sabha seats in Tripura.
Though the BJP leadership in the northeast has not reacted on Modi’s new government, the feeling of “under-representation” would continue to haunt them.