Modi should reach out to the North East

ImageNarendra Modi has promoted his vision to build a statue of Sardar Vallabhai Patel, the largest statue in the world to commemorate the memory of the first home minister of India, whose actions consolidated the nation post Independence. With the power of persuasion and an iron will, Patel united the territories of India, yet he was unable to unite the country under a common sense of citizenry.

The North East till this day remains socially and politically cut off from the issues which prevail across the majority of India. At the same time, generations across India have aged exposed to a polity devoid of the culture and socio-economic dynamics of the North East.The region has been denied significant economic development and faces regular security problems from communal violence to militant insurgencies. The situation has spurred a consistent exodus of the population to other parts of the country for secure access to education and livelihoods. People in the North East feel a clear sense of dissatisfaction with the political class in their states and at the Centre. In the run up to the 2014 general elections, Narendra Modi is in a unique position to use his image on the national stage to tap into that sentiment.

Modi should appeal to the North East not as a BJP leader, but a prospective Prime Minister and promote a pan India vision. He can promise economic development, security and most importantly appeal to the people as citizens of India to affirm the fact that they are as much the stakeholders in the nation’s growth as the people who live in New Delhi. He must lambaste the Congress and local parties for sidelining the region and its problems, for doing nothing to address the regional disconnect, and slam the central government for allowing the state governments to function without political accountability. Modi is enjoying an image of delivering good governance. Coupled with his tough stance on border security, he can introduce a fresh political narrative into the North East and try to build a presence for the BJP.

Modi’s pitch may not give political returns for the 2014 elections and maybe not even in the next 5 or 10 years. Yet, he can become the first BJP leader who can reach out to a long neglected region and renegotiate its political dynamics, pitching to socially and economically connect the regions of India. A vision like this can be the alternative to the isolationist politics that have dominated the region for decades. As national awareness grows and the youth emerge as active voters across the country, I believe there will be many takers for such a political pitch. Modi must hold a rally in the North East soon. As a national leader who reveres Vallabhai Patel, he can work towards finishing what the Iron Man started.