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2024 Lok Sabha Elections in Northeast India: Unravelling the Nuances of Assam, Manipur, Tripura, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland


As the ballots are cast and the counting commences, the political landscape of Northeast India unfolds with a tapestry of complexities, alliances, and electoral dynamics. The 2024 Lok Sabha elections in this region offer a captivating narrative of democratic fervour, regional aspirations, and the intricate interplay of factors shaping the electoral outcome.

Assam: A Microcosm of Electoral Dynamics

Assam, often regarded as the heartland of Northeast politics, showcased commendable turnout rates, ranking 3rd in Phase 1 and 2nd in Phase 2 of the elections with an average of 78.47% voter turnout in the first two phases, while the national average stands at around 66%. This enthusiastic participation mirrors the region’s deep-rooted commitment to democratic principles and the significance of electoral representation in shaping collective destiny.

In the constituency of Jorhat, the electoral contest is comparatively more intense this year due to the emergence of a promising young face, INC’s Gaurav Gogoi, to contest the two time winner BJP. Here, the Indian National Congress (INC) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) vie for supremacy, each leveraging distinct strategies to woo voters. INC’s candidate, Gaurav Gogoi, enjoys the backing of the Assam Tea Workers Union, capitalising on the substantial presence of the Tea tribe population. Conversely, the BJP faces scrutiny over unmet promises, particularly concerning Scheduled Tribe (ST) status for various communities. The outcome in Jorhat hinges on the delicate interplay of community allegiances, with the Ahom ethnic community emerging as a pivotal determinant. The BJP seems to have established itself among the Ahom population but the two time runners up INC has put up a fight this time around, which will be reflected in the results.

The seats that have had a close call in 2019—Nagaon, Karimganj and Kokrajhar—are also the most interesting seats of this year, as they have seen a substantial number of surprises this year. In Kokrajhar, with BJP not even closing up as the runners up in 2019, the political climate has shifted. Due to delimitation, the sitting and most influential candidate, Naba Kumar Sarania, is pushed out of the race, while NDA-supported UPPL has taken long strides in terms of garnering support from 14 adivasi organisations, including AASSAA, ACMA, BCF, ADF, ASSU, etc. The results this year from Kokrajhar are going to be surprising for many. While in Nagaon and Karimganj, a very close call is expected.

In Barpeta, Congress, which won 2019 with the support of minorities, is under target. The delimitation exercise has rendered the minority community no longer a deciding factor in this constituency. The AIUDF and CPI coalition in this seat will be a crucial factor in dividing votes. In Silchar, Mamata Banerjee’s entry into Assam politics adds a new dimension, particularly in mobilising the Bengali-speaking populace and reshaping traditional voting patterns. However, despite TMC’s effort to divide votes, the BJP still holds the upper hand, as Hemanta B. Sarma has not left any stones unturned in this battle to woo the Bengali-speaking Hindus. Meanwhile, Darrang-Udalguri constituency is witnessing a triangular contest between BJP, Bodo People’s Front and INC. BJP candidate Dilip Sakia is suspected to be facing an anti-incumbency wave in the constituency. This, along with the new alliance of AUIDF and BPF, will reflect in the election results.

Upon an overall analysis, the currently ruling BJP can be predicted to dominate the election with a few hiccups in some constituencies, namely, Dhubri, Karimganj and Nogaon. Along with these, the contests in Barpeta, Kokrajhar, and Darrang Udalgiri might see a dramatic change as compared to 2019. 

Manipur

The campaigning in Manipur was rather subdued and conducted away from public scrutiny. The battle of Inner Manipur will be interesting to see, as the voters allegiance might see a shift given the violent past year and dissatisfaction towards the BJP government, both centre and state. PM Narendra Modi was highly criticised by the local media for not visiting the state during the turmoil. In Outer Manipur, the BJP’s strategic alignment with the Naga People’s Front (NPF) underscores the evolving calculus of alliances, aimed at consolidating support across diverse constituencies. 

As the electoral saga unfolds, several key insights emerge. The evolving dynamics of alliances, the salience of identity and developmental issues, and the strategic calculus of political actors represent the nuanced nature of electoral politics in these two states of Northeast India. While definitive prognostications remain difficult, the prevailing sentiment suggests a landscape that is waiting to turn the tide in some constituencies while remaining stagnant in others. 

Tripura

In Tripura, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been the dominant force, securing a significant victory in the 2019 elections. However, the emergence of new alliances and the consolidation of opposition forces pose challenges to BJP’s supremacy. The Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT), in alliance with other regional parties, aims to capitalise on dissatisfaction with the ruling party’s policies, particularly regarding tribal rights and cultural identity. While the BJP remains a formidable contender, its vote share may see a decline due to these emerging challenges. It will retain a significant portion of the votes due to organisational strength and resource mobilisation.

Meghalaya

Meghalaya’s electoral landscape is characterised by coalition politics and a strong emphasis on cultural identity. The ruling National People’s Party (NPP), led by Chief Minister Conrad Sangma, faces competition from the Congress and United Democratic Party (UDP). The preservation of cultural identity is key factor influencing voter behaviour. The NPP’s governance record and its ability to navigate coalition dynamics will determine its electoral fortunes. The NPP is projected to maintain its lead. 

Mizoram

Mizoram’s elections revolve around issues of protecting Mizo culture and religion, promoting regionalism, and maintaining political independence. The Zoram People’s Movement (ZPM) emerged as a strong regional force, challenging the dominance of the Mizo National Front (MNF). The ZPM’s commitment to neutrality and independence from national alliances resonates with voters seeking to prioritise local issues over national politics. While the MNF remains a significant player, its influence may be challenged by the ZPM’s growing popularity. The ZPM is expected to make gains, potentially challenging the MNF’s dominance and reshaping the political landscape with its focus on regional issues.

Nagaland

The incumbent MP, Tokheho Yepthomi of the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP), is seeking re-election. The NDPP-BJP alliance has been a dominant force in the state, but it faces significant challenges from various quarters. The ongoing negotiations between the Government of India and the Naga Political Groups remain unresolved, adding uncertainty to the political landscape. The Eastern Nagaland People’s Organisation (ENPO) is advocating for a separate state carved out of Nagaland, which has led to calls for boycotts in certain districts. This demand introduces an element of unpredictability, as voter turnout in these areas might be affected​. The opposition, particularly the Congress, is striving to make progress by focusing on issues such as governance and development. The Congress is also likely to capitalise on any dissatisfaction with the current administration’s handling of local issues and the broader Naga peace process. However, given their current dominance and organisational strength, the NDPP-BJP alliance is likely to retain a significant portion of their vote base.

Arunachal Pradesh

Arunachal Pradesh presents a battleground between incumbent BJP Union Minister Kiren Rijiju and former Congress Chief Minister Nabam Tuki, with regional and independent candidates also vying for influence. The battle in Arunachal West PC is expected to be between Rijiju and Tuki, though Toko Sheetal, who defied naysayers to walk more than 2,000-km to Delhi in 2022 to make a statement against “large-scale corruption” in this frontier state to earn the “iron lady” tag, is posing tough challenges. The support of religious groups like the Arunachal Christian Forum (ACF) for Congress candidates adds a religious dimension to the electoral discourse and upset BJP’s plans to retain both seats it won in 2019. Christians constitute 30.26% of state’s population of 13.84 lakh, which is huge proportion of population. Rijiju’s tenure, controversies, and Tuki’s political experience shape voter perceptions. The outcome hinges on their ability to address religious sentiments and developmental aspirations.


(Mishthi Sharma, Election Research Intern, CPPR)

Views expressed by the author are personal and need not reflect or represent the views of the Centre for Public Policy Research.

Mishthi Sharma

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