The BJP winning 21 seats in Manipur has set the signal for a political tsunami for the entire hill States of the North-Eastern region. It is, in fact, a clear indication that the BJP is fast gaining grounds in the traditional strongholds of the grand old party Congress. Common voters across these States have shown their rejection of the failing and ailing leadership of the Congress. Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s poor show has brought home the message that he has failed to make much sense to the majority of the young voters. Time for serious introspection has long gone for the Congress. And therefore, the belief that only Gandhis can steer the Congress to success will ruin the oldest political party of this country one day. Above all, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pro-active and pro-people unique governance style will probably have a long stay in Indian politics.
The Assembly poll results in five States of Manipur, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, and Goa have shown that anti-Modi campaign mainly based on demonetisation did not pay much dividends to BJP’s bête noir. Modi and his team have once again proved that the majority of voters have given a green signal to the Government to take the country forward.
Apart from other factors, the anti-incumbency of one-and-a-half decades of the Congress regime of Okram Ibobi Singh in Manipur took toll on the Congress. Moreover, he failed to lift more than three months long economic blockade imposed by the United Naga Council (UNC) that literally brought life to a halt in the hilly State. Despite the blockade being unlawful, the Ibobi Government hardly could do anything to bring back the State to normalcy. The economic blockade came as a protest against the creation of seven districts by carving out the Naga-inhabited areas of Manipur. Though it was done for administrative convenience, the action was politically motivated. And hence Ibobi had miserably failed to reap the benefits of his administrative reforms. Besides, as the overall image of the Congress is waning very fast, it has a deep impact on the voters for sure.
The North-East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) and the grand Modi wave, besides the blockade of the UNC, altogether put a big question mark on the ability of the Ibobi Government. It finally pushed the BJP to an unexpected high in the sensitive State. Also the formation of another BJP-led coalition Government in Assam has a significant impact in the entire region. Subsequently, almost the entire Congress MLAs of Arunachal Pradesh joining the People’s Party of Arunachal (PPA), a constituent of the NEDA, has changed the political dynamics of the region. It was a great political drama set by the 43 of the 44 Congressmen of the State, simply citing that the State lacked resources and hence it had joined the PPA, as if the PPA is going to provide all the essential resources for the development of the State. Such frivolous reasons to change political loyalties indicate grim signals for our political class. They must bear in mind that voters do watch them and accordingly express their anger in the EVMs every five years. But then taking the people’s mandate for a ride will cause serious losses to our democratic edifice in future.
For the BJP, its march to the N-E is spectacular. It is all the more important that the BJP is able to add a new State one after another in the far-flung N-E region to its kitty. This will help in spreading a pan-Indian image of the party much beyond its north Indian tag. Modi’s larger than life image and his clean persona will help the party in moving further in some more States in the region.
As the entire region has been badly neglected by the successive Congress regimes in the past both in Delhi and in the respective States, its people are displaying their longstanding frustration now. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who still represents the Congress from Assam in the Rajya Sabha, could hardly offer anything to the trouble-torn region. Other States have climbed the developmental trajectory; but the N-E States have been left behind. Along with the Centre, the respective Congress-led State Governments like that of the earlier Tarun Gogoi regime failed to do much in Assam. The new BJP-led Governments in both Manipur and in Assam must keep in mind that they are getting an opportunity to serve the people. And people have high expectation from them. Failing the same will cost the party both at the region and at the Centre.
Above all, a State like Manipur, which has a very sensitive ethnic mosaic, demands emotional integration of its people rather than anything else. Unless it happens, the State will witness more disturbances in the future. Now a BJP-led coalition Government must ensure that the State comes back to normalcy at the earliest.
This is BJP’s first Government in the State and the party should have ensured that someone who has been with the party since the beginning should have taken over the top job. New Chief Minister N Biren Singh, who was a Congressman till the last year, must be cautious so as to keep the team together. Further, smaller parties like the National People’s Party (NPP), the Naga People’s Front (NPF), the LJP, and the TMC are having their own ambitions and agendas. Keeping this rag-tag coalition together would be a tough job for Singh.
The Congress just needs only three members to form the Government and anytime the coalition Government falls, the State would once again slip back into the hands of the former. What has happened in Manipur is not at all new in India’s political history. In fact, the Congress did the same in the past to form coalition Governments in many States. Just for the sake of making political rhetoric, the Congress can definitely say that it is nothing less than “manufacturing of consent” in Manipur. But to be fair, this kind of political education has come all the way from the grand old party only.
(The writer is an expert on international affairs)
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