On September 24, six ministers from the BJP-led government was dropped and five new Ministers were inducted, including two ex-MLAs from Congress who supported the BJP candidate for Rajya Sabha election and later on resigned. It was so well timed in that it was carried out when the main contender within the main party is in isolation and the two partners will have difficulty is undertaking a revolt. The LJSP do not have the number and the NPP after their last foray had lost all confidence of the main opposition party.
From reports there has been grumbling within the BJP MLAs and the NPP Ministers and the 4 MLAs from NPP had met their Party President to decide on the future course of action but within the main party there is no alternative leadership and the NPP also undecided on the future course of action. When worse come to worse, leadership of NPP will keep quiet as it will like to continue to be within the NDA and politics in India is all about being a family business. That there is opposition to the reshuffle may be gauged from the fact that the number of Ministers and MLAs attending the swearing-in ceremony was very thin. In fact no other Minister, except the CM is present while among the MLAs, other than those who were sworn in, only three or four were present. Even the Party President was not seen. Choice of Ministers is solely within the prerogative of the CM though except that democracy in India is a number game and if there is more opposition within the party, they may challenge the leadership. Such rebellion may well have been anticipated and the party must have taken this into consideration while deciding on the reshuffle. The intra-party and inter-party rivalry is not too much concern of the common man but the implication of an unstable government is the concern of all. The street reactions in Kangpokpi indicate bitterness among the public supporting the former ministers.
One concern to the present ministry is that it is not inclusive as the 11 Ministers comes from only six districts; 4 from Imphal East, 3 from Imphal West and 1 each from Chandel, Churachandpur, Senapati, and Tamenglong while the earlier one had representatives from 8 districts. As many as 10 districts are unrepresented but it is impossible to include representatives from all the districts as there is only 12 ministerial berths against 16 districts. However, the choice of the ex-MLAs for Ministers is illuminating as it includes one from an AC which is not listed for bye-elections for the present due to court case while for the other the chances of re-election is considered dim by political analysts though now being a minister his chances have improved considerably; in other words in terms of Article 164 (4) they have to quit office after expiration of six months from the date they become Ministers. This is like killing two birds with one stone, satisfying the promises made to them while giving an opportunity to induct BJP MLAs after six months.
With two major issues in front of the people of Manipur besides the Covid-19 pandemic; that is the Delimitation issues which was opposed by many and the likely conclusion of the Naga peace talk shortly, there is a cause of concern if there is an unstable government. In-fighting can only lead to President’s Rule and the government in such situation will only toe the line of the Centre. Kindly recall the 2001 incident which happened during PR. No Governor can act against the will of the Centre, though in the past there were Governors who refused to toe the line and quit the gubernatorial post. Lt General Nayar is one such example in mind. But among the present Governors, one can’t even think of anyone who will have the gumption to disobey the diktat of the Centre! Was the Centre fully aware of the likely revolt to the reshuffle and was intending to bring in President’s Rule in the state so that when the state is reeling under the Covid-19 pandemic with people losing their jobs and are in dire straight for their survival, the Delimitation and the Naga Peace Agreement is finalised during the PR period?
Food for thought!
From the media reports, BJP was perhaps the only major political party which had not joined as a party in the High Court case on the Delimitation issue, which was perhaps not their intent but was due to circumstances. There may be pressure from the high command but most of the state leadership are very wary of it. The delimitation issue is with the Courts and the ECI which was tasked under the law to carry out such an exercise, though a Commission was constituted for this purpose, need to look holistically including the decision of the law courts before arriving at the final outcome.
As regards to the Naga Peace talks leading to the final agreement, from the selective leaks that had surfaced in the media NSCN (IM) continues to stick to the Constitution and Flag which are a sore point with the Government of India which has reportedly categorically stated that it cannot be considered as of now, while the NNPG is willing to ink the final agreement. Without bringing on board all the Naga groups, long lasting peace will be a pipe dream as was seen after the 1975 accord.
The details of the proposed agreement are not in the public domain and hence it is difficult to conjecture on it and will be purely hypothetical which can only create confusion and hence refrained from making any observation. Though it is not to allege any groups is chummy with the Chinese, with the rapid deterioration of the relation with China, it may start making overtures to the various rebel groups of the region with an attempt to destabilise the region. This should be a serious cause of worry for the Indian Government and they may be willing to take other risks to ensure that the final accord is signed sooner than later.
The voice from Manipur on the two issues also has merit and disregarding them will lead to dissatisfaction believing that the Centre listens only to armed groups; a dangerous portent. This needs to be dispelled and that GoI listen and acts to the voice of the people and not only to armed groups; failing which peace will elude the region.
One vacant seat for minister is believed to be meant for the Speaker who can resign and join the Council of Ministers. But the Speaker is yet to do so. Sagacious in that at present he is independent and is an alternate centre of power but once he joins the Council of Ministers he will be subservient to the CM. The CM has now the majority of the Ministers with him and hence, will be easier for him to govern.
Taking into consideration the situation prevailing in the state, disunity is not going to lead anywhere. When there was a move for submitting a no-confidence motion against the government many CSOs had observed that now is not the time for politicking as Manipur is facing various challenges. Quite true, but now the comments from the CSOs are muted, though a few have raised their concern; about the disunity among the elected representatives with the state facing all sorts of challenges, the most serious being the pandemic which had seen five digit positive cases on 26th and the death slowly inching up.
It will continue to see a rise as there is Unlock-4 in position and many activities are opened. Unlock-5 may yet open up more, especially when India is seen to be in the plateau of fresh infection, though Manipur is still yet to reach. The state have to be wary of the delimitation exercise as also the outcome of the Naga Peace talk, though it is hoped that those in the decision making process have the sagacity to look into the issues holistically so that feathers of any community are not ruffled and those likely to be affected are brought on board before a final decision is taken.
The reshuffle of the ministry have put the CM in the driver’s seat, literally throwing out those who are seen as inimical to him within and outside the party but the path is strewn with thorns and it can cause to stumble; at great risk to the government and the state and its people. When someone is riding on the crest of luck, nothing can touch him; only when luck deserts him will he fall like Humpty Dumpty.
(The views expressed are the writer's own)