Even as Nongthongbam Biren Singh heads to be the first BJP chief minister in Manipur, he has an uphill task of chalking out a mutually acceptable path of existence for all the ethnic identities in the conflict ridden state.
Nazma Heptullah, the Governor of Manipur, has invited the BJP to prove it’s strength on the floor after the saffron party handed her a list of 32 MLAs supporting N. Biren Singh’s candidature as the chief minister.
The saffron party takes charge of Manipur at a time when the state is torn by a long dwelling ethnic tension that resulted in an economic blockade which is more than four months old now. Though N. Biren Singh who is known as a man who dons many hats seems to be the right choice for the post, but the historic nature of the issue is likely to take more than the personal effort of the chief minister.
Here are the prime issues those the N. Biren Singh’s government is likely to face.
Issue of Seven New Districts
The state is in the grip of a four month long economic blockade, imposed by United Naga Council protesting a decision made by the Congress-led state government to create seven new districts, as the UNC saw it as an attempt to divide the Naga areas.
The new BJP-led dispensation would be under pressure to solve this issue as it's a polls promise by prime minister in his rally loud and clear.
Pressure is likely to mount on the government from the people living in the plains, who are also BJP’s core support base in the state.
The obvious way to solve this issue is perhaps to roll back the decision to create new districts in the Naga areas. Such a decision is likely to please it’s alliance in government Naga People’s Front as it has the UNC as it’s political mentor in Manipur.
But any attempt to roll back it’s decision to create new districts may be seen as bowing down to the pressures of NSCN(IM), by the plain dwellers.
Before the election, Elangbam Johnson, President of the United Council Of Manipur said to Firstpost that, “We cannot succumb to the pressures of UNC.”
He also said that the United Council of Manipur has warned the government to not retract from it’s decision to create new districts.
Whether the BJP-led dispensation will be able to fulfill it’s promise of solving the issue that too without losing it’s credibility among it’s core voters?
Protection of the ethnic identity of Meiteis
The BJP has long been playing with the demand of protection of Meitei identity, that the plain dwellers in the state see as caused by influx of population. In it’s election manifesto, the BJP addressed “the need to extend the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation-1873 or any other Act to check the population invasion against Manipur and to regulate the entry of migrant workers from other states. The provision of Entry fees, Landing fees, Punishment Clauses should be inserted in the Act.”
The Congress government in Manipur in the year 2016 brought three bills claiming that they will give an effect of Inner Line Permit System in the valleys, when enacted. But the bills were stiffly protested by the tribals in the hills, as they saw them as encroachment upon their rights
Nongthonbam Biren Singh was an MLA in the Congress regime at that time. Will he be able to convince the tribals this time?
Naga peace accord
The BJP burnt it’s fingers with the framework of agreement signed with NSCN(IM), as the secrecy maintained about it was made an issue by the Congress in Manipur and played as a conspiracy to compromise the territorial integrity of the state.
In fact this narrative is said to have deterred BJP’s clean sweep in Manipur. The new dispensation is pitted against the challenge of creating a congenial environment in the state to amicably conclude the peace talk. It is seen as the biggest challenge for the party, as it is the most sensitive issue and what reaction the framework of agreement will face, when it is made public is still unpredictable.
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Updated Date: Mar 14, 2017 19:08:13 IST