As lotus blooms in Manipur, hope of peace and progress brighten
| 16 Mar 2017
| NOP Bureau National

Ram Madhav & Prahlad Patel scripted BJP’s historic win in Manipur

Onkareshwar Pandey

Lotus bloomed in Manipur, India’s far eastern state bordering Myanmar. Proving true Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s promise to form the next Government in Manipur, Nongthombam Biren Singh sworn-in on Tuesday 15th of March,2017 as the first BJP Chief Minister of Manipur and the hope of peace and progress has brighten.

Contrary to pre and post poll predictions that the Congress government would come back to power by having the majority with 28 elected the formation of BJP government in Manipur has come as a total surprise to all. The BJP bagged 21 seats. But the NPF and NPP with four MLAs each supported it. Besides one MLA each of the AITC, LJP and independent also supported it. Congress had been in power for three consecutive terms.

The BJP has been generous with ministerial posts for the allies that have helped it reach a majority in the state. Of the seven others who were sworn in, only one is from the BJP.
N Biren Singh took oath as the chief minister of Manipur at the Raj Bhawan in Imphal. This comes after Governor Najma Haptullah invited the BJP-led coalition under Singh to form the next government in the state after being assured of requisite support from regional parties and Independents. Y Joy kumar Singh, who took oath as the deputy chief minister, is from the NPP. He is the former DGP of Manipur and was considered Ibobi’s right-hand man. Other ministers who took oath are: Th Biswajit of the BJP, L Jayanta kumar of the NPP, Karan Shyam of LJP, L Haokip of NPP, N Koyisi of NPP, Losie Dikho of NPF, Th Shyam kumar who won on Congress ticket from Andro has defected to the BJP and was sworn-in the cabinet.

No one believed when PM Modi had said that the BJP will form the next government in Manipur, because till the last Assembly elections, the presence of the BJP was so nominal in the state that the party had hardly fielded any candidate.

However, things started changing first after the BJP’s ascension to power at the Centre in 2014 and then after its stunning victory in Assam in 2016.

The BJP leaders supported by the dedicated team of senior RSS functionaries and workers scripted a dramatic turnaround of fortunes in the Northeast, which has been a traditional stronghold of the Congress party.

In Manipur, the BJP national president Amit Shah had assigned one of its senior leaders, Prahlad Singh Patel to achieve the goal of forming its first government giving him one of the very challenging task.

Patel, a Member of Parliament of Damoh Loksabha Constituency in Madhya Pradesh and a former union minister, is known for his proven organisational skills. He had surprised everyone in the party by mobilising support of lakhs of labourers of unorganised sector in the past and was subsequently made the National President of "Asanghatit majdur sangh".

Working on the guidelines of Ram Madhav, one of RSS’s finest strategists to repeat Assam in Manipur, Patel, a member of BJP National Executive, camped in Imphal for nearly two months to muster the support for the party and achieved it brick by brick. Ram madhav was present at the time of swearing-in of Biren Government in Imphal.

One leader in the party said – “Prahlad Singh Patel worked harder to achieve the target given by Amit Shah Ji and successfully kept the words given by Modi Ji to the people of Manipur. Now it’s the party who has to reward him suitably by giving him a birth in the Union Ministry”.

One of the major challenges for BJP in Manipur was lack of senior political leaders in the state, which was fulfilled by pocketing several top leaders of the Congress such as N Biren, Y Erabot and O Chauba Singh. With anti-incumbency at its height after a 15-year Congress rule, led by Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh, the BJP strategists milked both dissent within the Congress and the anti-incumbency factor till the last drop and got the desired result.

The BJP got the votes of Hindu population, which is heavily concentrated in the Bishnupur, Thoubal, Imphal East and Imphal West districts of Manipur valley where Hindu majorities averaging 67.62% (range 62.27–74.81%) according to the 2011 census data.

The Hindutva Party successfully made its base among the ethnic Meitei group of Manipur valley, which consists 58.9 per cent of the total population of Manipur, about 41.4% of them profess Vaishnavism school of Hinduism, which became a dominant force in the state in eighteenth century when the king, Garib Niwaj (1708–48), declared it as the official State religion.

The Manipuri Hindus profess Vaishnavism of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the Bhakti preacher of Bengal, which stressed Krishna Bhakti. However, a large minority of Meitei people practices Sanamahism (traditional Meitei religion) and Christianity.

Manipur, once described as the 'Jewel of India', was a Union Territory till 1972 from 1956 when it became a full-fledged state, has population of two major groups, the people who inhabit the hills are called the Nagas and those who inhabit the valley are called the Meiteis. The hills are also inhabited by the Kuki tribes.

In 2012 Assembly elections, Ibobi Singh-led Congress party had got sweeping victory in Manipur bagging 42 seats also because the opposition was divided. But this time, the BJP successfully built an anti-Congress platform by getting on board leaders who have popularity of their own but had fallen out with Ibobi Singh. This included Heingang MLA N Biren Singh, 56, who was sworn in as the Chief Minister of the first BJP-led government in Manipur today.
A national level footballer turned journalist turned politician and a former Congress minister from Manipur, MLA N Biren is was on Monday elected unanimously the leader of the BJP legislature party. In October 2016, Biren had resigned from the Manipur Legislative Assembly and the Manipur Pradesh Congress Committee, this came after revolt against Chief Minister of Manipur Okram Ibobi Singh.

Interestingly, on the Naga issue, the BJP was banking on the strategy which the Congress thought would be disastrous for the saffron party and did well in the valley, where the Congress was hoping to reap the benefits of economic blockade by United Naga Council.

All Nagas in the Manipur state, under the banner of United Naga Council, have declared the political severance of ties with the then existing congress government of Manipur in 2010.

The Congress party could not gain much support in the valley even after its allegations that if the BJP came to power it would compromise the territorial integrity of the state and the party is hand in glove with the NNC which sponsored the crippling economic blockade to protest against the bifurcation of the districts in the-Naga dominated hills.
The Congress party, which has blamed the “false promises of the BJP” and militant outfit NSCN (IM) for its poor performance in the state election, actually failed in its strategy of bifurcating the hill and thus create a division between valley and hills which has 70 and 30 per cent of the seats respectively. The Congress’s allegation campaign of accusing the saffron party of being hand in glove with the United Naga Council, which sponsored the crippling economic blockade to protest against the bifurcation of the districts in the-Naga dominated hills, did not cut much ice with the voters.

This year’s poll results saw one another excruciating lesson in Manipur. Irom Chanu Sharmila, the woman who gave 16 years of her youth fasting alone in her lonely special prison cell in a hospital to fight for the repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, AFSPA 1958, got just 90 votes in her contest against the Chief Minister, O. Ibobi Singh and was so humiliatingly dismissed from politics which will be remembered for long.

Now, since the Naga People’s Front has joined the government with its four MLAs, the people of Manipur hope to get rid of economic blockade by NNC and a more peaceful atmosphere for the all round development of the state.
(Writer is Editor-News with ANI)

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