Elections in north-east India highlight the BJP’s political savvy

Feb 22, 2018

“PRESERVE our tradition and culture,” reads the sign at the front of the community hall in the north-eastern Indian state of Meghalaya. It is written in the raspy, clacking language of the local Khasi people, which is more closely related to Khmer, Cambodia’s main language, than it is to the most widely spoken languages in India. Yet beneath it, Nalin Kohli, a suave lawyer flown in from Delhi by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which runs India’s national government, is giving a stump speech in Hindi. The BJP, with its centralising, Hindu nationalist ideology, does not seem a natural fit for Meghalaya, whose 3m inhabitants are mostly Christian and fearful of losing their identity in a country of 1.3bn people. It is testimony to the BJP’s political acumen that it may end up running the state later this month.

In Meghalaya and nearby Nagaland, where an election will be held on February 27th, and in Tripura, a bastion of communism that voted on February 18th, the rest of India is...

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