BJP retains influence in Northeast
- NJ Thakuria

Guwahati: The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) retained three seats in Assam Legislative Assembly as its nominated candidates won the by-polls held in Rangapara, Sonari and Ratabari seats. However, the Congress lost its Jania Assembly constituency as the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) nominee was declared a winner in the by-polls.
All four Assembly seats in Assam were vacated by legislators successfully to participate in the 14th Lok Sabha elections held in April. By-polls for the seats took place on October 21 and the results were declared on October 24 last. The saffron victory was however predicted by the political observers in advance. Vacated by State minister Pallab Lochan Das (presently a BJP Parliamentarian), Rangapara constituency in eastern Assam was won by the saffron nominee Rajen Borthakur defeating his nearest Congress rival (Kartik Kurmi) with a margin of 49,599 votes.
Sonari seat in the far eastern part of the State, which was vacated by another minister in Sarbananda Sonowal’s cabinet Tapan Gogoi (also a BJP member in Lok Sabha), was declared in favour of BJP nominee Nabanita Handique, who defeated her nearest rival Sushil Kumar Suri of the Congress by 15,430 votes. Similarly, BJP candidate Bijoy Malakar won over his nearest Congress rival (Keshab Prasad Rajak) in Ratabari Assembly constituency (in Barak valley) by 24,001 votes, which went vacant as the saffron legislator (served as Assembly deputy- speaker) Kripanath Mallah participated in the general elections.
AIUDF candidate Rafiqul Islam emerged winner in the minority-dominated Jania seat in western Assam, which was vacated by Congress legislator Abdul Khaleque (now a Congress MP), defeating his nearest Congress rival Samsul Hoque by 35,141 votes. BJP fielded a popular Assamese actor (Towfiqur Rahman) in the constituency but failed to get him elected to the Assembly.
The saffron party won two seats in Sikkim, first time in the Himalayan State, where the third one was grabbed by the chief minister (Prem Singh Tamang alias PS Golay). Need not to be mentioned that Tamang’s party Sikkim Krantikari Morcha is an ally to BJP. He defeated his nearest rival Moses Rai of Sikkim Democratic Front by a margin of 8,953 votes in Poklok Kamrang Assembly constituency.
The other two Assembly constituencies namely Martam-Rumtek (BL) and Gangtok were won by saffron candidates Sonam Tshering Venchungpa and YT Lepcha. Venchungpa defeated his nearest rival Nuk Tshering Bhutia of SDF with a margin of 6,150 votes and Lepcha defeated his nearest rival Delay Namgyal Barfungpa of Sikkim National People’s Party by over 1,000 votes.
By-polls were necessitated as SDF chief Pawan Kumar Chamling vacated Poklok Kamrang, Kunga Nima Lepcha left Gangtok and DT Lepcha vacated Martam-Rumtek constituency after winning two seats each in the last Assembly polls. 

The State elections marked the end of more than two-decade-long rule by Chamling in Gangtok. Tamang was sworn in as the new chief minister on May 27 even he was not a legislator then. BJP’s ally United Democratic Party won the Shella Assembly constituency in the by-polls, which was necessitated because of the death of Meghalaya Assembly Speaker (also a former chief minister) and UDP chief Donkupar Roy. His son Balajied Kupar Synrem defeated his nearest rival (independent candidate Grace Mary Kharpuri) by 6,221 votes.
In Arunachal Pradesh, independent candidate Chakat Aboh emerged winner in West Khonsa seat defeating another independent candidate (Azet Homtok) by a margin of 1,887 votes. Mentionable is that all major political parties including the Congress and BJP supported her, who lost her husband (legislator Tirong Aboh) in a terror attack on May 21 last.
The victory of BJP (or its allies) candidates is significant as the saffron party continues to receive criticisms for issues like updating the National Register of Citizens (in Assam) and Citizenship (Amendment) Bill. Civil societies of the region have condemned the ruling party in a number of northeastern States (besides in New Delhi) on different issues triggering protest demonstrations time and again, but the poll-outcome has emerged in other ways.