By Sujit Chakraborty
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be spending four busy days on his maiden visit to the northeast where he will address the country’s top police chiefs, dedicate a train line from Meghalaya to Assam, commission a power project in Tripura and inaugurate a festival each in Nagaland and Manipur.
Modi begins Nov 29 his trip to the northeast region that shares boundaries with China, Myanmar, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Nepal. He will visit Congress-ruled Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh, Left-ruled Tripura and Democratic Alliance of Nagaland (DAN)-ruled Nagaland.
“Modi’s four-day stay in the northeastern region is very significant, both politically and otherwise. After former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda (1996-1997), Modi is the second prime minister staying several consecutive days in the region to know the area closely,” political analyst Tapas Dey said.
He said: “The state governments in the region are largely dependent on the mercy of the central government as their own revenue is very small and there is no big industry in the region to deal with both economy and unemployment.”
“Modi might declare some state-specific economic packages during his tour,” Dey added.
According to chief ministers of the five states, the state governments would submit memoranda to the prime minister demanding several projects covering higher education, infrastructure and health.
During his visit, Modi will also inaugurate the annual conference of state police chiefs in Guwahati Nov 29. The meet is being held outside Delhi for the first time at Modi’s instance.
In Assam, Modi would also flag off the first train from Mendipathar in North Garo Hills of Meghalaya to Dudhnoi in Goalpara district of Assam through remote control from Guwahati.
Modi will inaugurate Nagaland’s biggest annual festival – Hornbill Festival – which also marks the 50th anniversary of creation of Nagaland as a separate state out of the erstwhile Naga Hills district of Assam and the Tuensang Hill Tracts.
The prime minister will also inaugurate the Sangai Festival, which showcases the diverse cultures of Manipur.
He will then inaugurate the second unit of the 726-MW power project in Palatana in southern Tripura. State-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation has commissioned its biggest ever commercial power project at Palatana in southern Tripura.
The power generation from the first unit (363 MW) of the Rs.9,000-crore Palatana power plant began December 2013 and the second unit (363 MW) is expected to start generation after its inauguration.
Modi had campaigned extensively in the northeast, particularly Assam, during the April-May Lok Sabha polls and his party secured positive results.
The seven northeastern states – Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura-have 24 Lok Sabha seats. The BJP and its allies got 10 seats in the Lok Sabha elections. The BJP alone won eight-seven in Assam and one in Arunachal Pradesh.
Indraneel Bhowmik, a teacher at the Tripura (Central) University and an author, said: “Modi during his several pre-poll visits to the northeast attracted the youth with the dream of solving the massive unemployment problems in the region.”
“The unemployment problem, both among the educated and uneducated youths of the region, is the burning issue of the region,” he said.
Bhowmik said: “The (Congress-led previous) UPA government’s performance is very poor for the development of the northeast, creating scope for a surge in favour of the BJP.”
Writer and scholar Sekhar Datta said: “Modi’s visit to the region is a very politically significant move and it shows his keenness to strengthen BJP’s political base in the northeast. In governance also, Modi has given a priority to northeast which is a sensitive but neglected region.”
“Northeast India has borders with so many countries, its terrain is also difficult, people are economically backward and hence the region requires constant attention from Delhi and major investment…Modi seems to have realised this. This will give a lot of benefit to the region.”