Prior to the Assembly polls in Meghalaya this February, the BJP was very confident about a good show in the hill state. The party’s state president, Ernest Mawrie, had asserted that the BJP would cross the second digit this time. But the poll results were rather disappointing for the saffron party, as it could secure only two seats in the 60-member Assembly.
In 2018 also, the BJP had won two seats, and their vote percentage was 9.60 per cent, which further deteriorated this year and dropped to 9.30 per cent.
A top local BJP leader said that as the party fought all seats in Meghalaya for the first time, the vote percentage showed a minor dip. The BJP was hoping big in Garo Hills, and in internal surveys, the party was projected to win at least 10 seats in the region.
Riding high on the expectation, the BJP top brass launched a sharp attack against Meghalaya Chief Minister and National People’s Party’s chief, Conrad Sangma, with Union Home Minister Amit Shah calling him the most corrupt in the entire country.
Shah had alleged that the money sent by the Centre for the welfare of the people of Meghalaya could not reach the beneficiaries as there was large-scale corruption going on under Sangma.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also took part in the high-voltage campaigning in Meghalaya and took a swipe at the NPP.
However, poll analysts were constantly asking the question: “Could the BJP find a way to woo the Christian community voters?”
More than the BJP, it is the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its affiliated organisations like Vishwa Hindu Parishad, and the Bajrang Dal’s way of functioning has always been a repelling force for the people of the Christian community.
In the run-up to the polls, BJP state president Mawrie had played down the narrative.
He had said: “It has been nine years since the BJP came to power at the centre, and we have not seen any church under attack. There is no restriction on consuming beef either. I eat beef and I am in the BJP; there is absolutely no problem with this.”
Though his “beef-eating” comment hit the political spectrum then, it could not benefit the BJP, and Mawrie lost his seat as well.
The BJP’s two candidates, Sanbor Shullai and A.L. Hek, won in this election. Shullai was a ,inister in the previous Meghalaya coalition government, and Hek has been made a minister by the BJP this time.
According to political observers, both Shullai and Hek have the ability to pull off a win irrespective of the party symbol, and therefore, the two victories came more from individual acceptance of the two leaders among the voters.
Though the BJP is in power by making themselves a part of the coalition government in Meghalaya, which is led by Conrad Sangma, despite being termed the most corrupt Chief Minister by the Union Home Minister, the acceptance of the saffron party among the Christian community in the hill state still remains a big question.
Two factors have been playing against the BJP in Meghalaya — first, the Hindutva politics; and second, the lack of a prominent and strong local leader around whom a narrative can be formed.
Unless the BJP finds a solution to at least one issue among the above two, it is hard for the saffron camp to penetrate Meghalaya.