After Assam, Manipur will become the second major state in the North East to have a BJP government. There is also a BJP government in Arunachal, brought about by the machinations of the party more than by winning elections.
As in Goa, so too in Manipur, the BJP has grabbed the opportunity by wooing smaller parties. This practice was perfected by the Congress during its long tenure of power at the Centre.
The disappointment is that the BJP, after decades of hitting out at the Congress for its unethical ways, is behaving no better. The BJP’s promise of being a party with a difference has been thrown out the window.
In Manipur, BJP had just two seats in the last Assembly, through bye-elections in 2015. But this time it won 21 seats, and the Congress 28. One of the elected MLAs has already joined the BJP.
Moreover, Biren Singh the new chief minister, had switched over from the Congress. He was one of former chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh’s most trusted aides and a troubleshooter for the party. He left the Congress last year after differences with Ibobi Singh. He was followed by six others.
"Biren Singh is a known face in Manipur. He is an able administrator and we hope he will deliver,’’ says Amar Yumnan, an economics
professor in Manipur University. He believes that the Congress lost the elections because Ibobi Singh could muster just 28
seats this time, when previously it had returned 46 members to the Legislative Assembly. The BJP, on the other hand has been able to increase its tally considerably.
"My one worry is the presence of the Naga People’s Front (NPF) in the coalition led by Biren Singh. The NPF members have an agenda to break up the Naga-dominated hill districts of Manipur to form a Greater Nagaland. This is not acceptable to us,’’ Yumnan says. The NPF has four members. The deputy chief minister’s post has been promised to the NPP, a small regional outfit headed by former speaker Purno
The presence of the smaller regional groups as well as the NPF, is a major worry for the Meities. But the other side of the picture is also important. With the ministers in the government, it is unlikely that blockades of the national highways by the United Naga Counil or counter-strikes by the Meites can now be avoided.
Manipur has often been paralysed by these meaningless economic blockades which has resulted in untold misery for the common man. Biren Singh has already announced that the current blockade will be lifted soon after he takes office.
According to Yumnan, the BJP’s fortunes in Manipur turned after Prime Minister Narendra Modi campaigned in the state. "He swung the tide in the state,’’ he adds. People in Manipur have much faith in the PM and hope that the promise to integrate the North East states, especially Manipur, which shares a border with Myanmar, to the thriving economy of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) would now be implemented with vigour.
"This process of Act East, or Look East as it was called earlier, has been in the works for nearly two decades. But very little is seen on the ground. Biren Singh is a dynamic leader and is expected to push this agenda. Hopefully, with the PM at the Centre and Biren Singh in Imphal, this will pick up."
The professor says that he has been closely involved in the think tank and academic studies for the Act East policy for years. But while there is much enthusiasm for free flow of trade with Asean in closed academic discussions, Ibobi Singh was not interested in working towards the transformation of Manipur, the professor said.
Analyst Mahendra Lama of Jawaharlal Nehru University, who has long been involved in the Act East project, had a few pointers for the new government. "I feel that nothing will move in the North East if all decisions are taken in Delhi. The Centre must learn to allow the chief ministers to decide for themselves. This also fits in with the prime minister’s views on co-operative federalism. But if the Act East policy has to take off, don’t depend on the babus sitting in Delhi to take all decisions.’’
Lama suggests that the Ministry of Development of the North Eastern Region, which is based Delhi, should immediately move to one of the states in the region. "Unless this transformative action is taken, the long held hope that the North East would be a bridge to Asean countries will remain on paper. Nothing will move.’’
This suggestion had often come from people of the North Eastern states, but babus in Delhi are loathe to move out. Perhaps with the North East now coming under the BJP umbrella, things will be different.
The people have long waited for development to come their way. The Congress, despite all their schemes, had not delivered. The BJP cannot afford to fail the people who have put their trust and faith in the prime minister. The vote was not for the BJP, but for Narendra Modi.
Updated Date: Mar 15, 2017 12:29 PM