When Union Home Minister Amit Shah said in Parliament that there is no need for extending Presidents’ Rule (PR) in Manipur as the state government is cooperating with the Centre, everyone thought there is no threat to Chief Minister N Biren Singh’s chair and he still has the blessings and full backing of the powerful Home Minister and so also the Prime Minister, Narendrabhai Damodardas Modi himself.
Question now is, does he still have that confidence of the two most powerful men in the country. The BJP certainly has reasons for keeping N Biren Singh in the chair. If it replaces a Chief Minister every time somebody demands it, that would have repercussions in other states also and will reflect poorly on the party. But we must say, it still has a weird sense of politics and no set of rules apply in every state. For example, in the state of Uttarakhand the Chief Minister was changed thrice while in Madhya Pradesh Shivraj Chauhan remained untouched despite dissidence within the ranks.
In Assam, Sarbananda Sonowal was pulled out and made a central minister to bring in his lieutenant Himanta Biswa Sarma as Chief Minister while Biplab Kumar Deb was replaced by Manik Saha in Tripura to everyone’s surprise. So, no one could predict what would happen next in the realm of Modi and Shah as they keep their cards very close to the chest.
For one thing, the way Kukis demanded Biren Singh’s ouster perhaps might have turned out to be a blessing in disguise. They say, they can no longer live together with the Meiteis and want a separate administration while at the same time they want N Biren Singh’s head on a platter. For the sake of argument, why should they bother about who remains in the CM’s chair of Manipur state if they want to separate? That is exactly why we said earlier, the mind of the Kuki leaders or intellectuals work in peculiar ways.
Again, why is it that law and order besides security matters had been taken over by the Home Ministry through a security advisor and DGP which he controls ‘without invoking’ Article 355 of the Indian Constitution. The chief minister and state BJP leadership seems to have been advised to keep their mouths shut as to the actual ‘take-over’ of the state law and order machinery. So, they have been silent till recently as public anger began to be directed against them.
But, the Centre has chosen to neither confirm nor refute it. The RTI reply given by the Home Ministry sometime back remains the last word till now. That way, Chief Minister N Biren Singh gets all the blame for deteriorating law and order situation while the Centre gets away with it. The mandarins in the Home ministry want to keep it that way till the situation becomes normal. But one cannot predict what will happen to the chief minister’s chair once normalcy arrives.
There are many contenders to the throne right now and it can broadly be divided into two blocks. One block within the BJP is openly revolting against N Biren Singh alleging that it was all because of his mishandling that the situation has come to such a pass. Another block wants N Biren Singh changed also, but not at the moment while the pot is boiling. They want to wait and do not want the power status quo disturbed as they also fear for reprisals from mobs. It has gotten into the heads of a large chunk of the people that sacking the chief minister now would be like surrendering to the Kukis who were vehemently demanding his ouster.