ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Electoral Response to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in the North East

An examination of survey data is undertaken to understand why the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill issue did not affect the poll fortunes of the Bharatiya Janata Party in the North East. While it has caused widespread outrage in the region in the past many months, why then did it not dent the National Democratic Alliance’s electoral performance? Poll results in Manipur, Meghalaya and Nagaland are examined since these were the only states in the North East (other than Assam) where the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies–Lokniti conducted a post-poll survey. Local-level factors seem to explain the outcome better.

In the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, it was widely believed that the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB), 2016 introduced by the Narendra Modi government would affect the prospects of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies in the north-eastern states. Across most states of the region, the CAB, which sought to provide Indian citizenship to non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, had led to vigorous protests by people from different walks of life soon after it had been passed by the Lok Sabha in January 2019. The protestors’ opposition stemmed from fears that it would give legitimacy to illegal migrants in India and affect the existing demography of the region. While these protests as well as the pressure built by the BJP’s North-East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) allies and its north-eastern leadership eventually forced the government to withdraw the bill from being tabled in the Rajya Sabha, the BJP’s top leadership and its election manifesto nonetheless maintained its commitment to the idea (Hindu 2019; Times of India 2019). When the election results came out on 23 May, it emerged that the CAB issue had not dented the BJP’s performance in the region.

The BJP won nine of the 10 seats it contested in Assam, both the seats in Arunachal Pradesh, one of the two seats in Manipur, and both seats in Tripura. It thus won 14 of the total 25 seats across the region, a gain of six seats compared to the 2014 election. In Nagaland, its ally the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) won the lone seat by a narrow margin. The only states where the BJP failed to make much impact were Meghalaya, Mizoram and Sikkim. In all three, it contested on its own. Its overall vote share in the region went up by 5 percentage points (Table 1). We will try to understand through the use of survey data why the CAB which caused widespread outrage in the region and was made into a key electoral plank by the opposition Congress, did not affect the BJP’s prospects (Talukdar 2019). Our attention will be limited to the states of Manipur, Meghalaya and Nagaland since these were the only states in the North East (other than Assam, separately discussed in this issue) where the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS)–Lokniti conducted a post-poll survey.

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Updated On : 23rd Aug, 2019
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