Managing Manipur: On the importance of a stable government

The BJP-led coalition wins a trust vote in the State under controversial circumstances

In Manipur, a State troubled by ethnic strife and continuing insurgency, and dependent on Central financial transfers to run the economy, the importance of a stable and cohesive government cannot be understated. A fractured verdict reducing the Congress party, that had been in power for 15 years, to 28 seats and three short of a majority in the 60-member Assembly, has resulted in a new coalition led by the Bharatiya Janata Party taking power. The BJP will be pleased with its best-ever electoral performance in the State, winning 21 seats and leaving the Congress party second in terms of vote share. By winning the vote of confidence, the BJP-led government, with N. Biren Singh as the Chief Minister, has secured a crucial victory. But the circumstances leading to this victory and the manoeuvres that were undertaken to achieve this have dimmed the aura of the feat. For instance, an independent MLA who had reportedly assured the Congress of his support went missing for a few days after the election results. Governor Najma Heptulla then showed undue haste in inviting the BJP to form the government, despite the Congress being the single largest party. The election of the Speaker and the trust vote were inexplicably conducted as voice votes, even as a Congress legislator, Th Shyamkumar, who had switched sides just a day after the election results, reportedly voted in favour of the ruling coalition. A division of votes would have ascertained how the votes went.

The trust vote behind him, Mr. Singh faces the difficult task of managing the contradictions within the coalition. Seven of the nine ministerial berths announced so far have been given to the smaller parties, and other aspiring legislators are expected to be given roles as parliamentary secretaries, a tactic that was also used by the outgoing Congress Chief Minister, Ibobi Singh, to ensure support. That said, Mr. Singh has started his tenure on a positive note as the nearly five-month-long blockade of the valley imposed by the United Naga Council was finally called off after the offer of tripartite talks among the Centre, the State and the UNC was reiterated by the new government. While conducting negotiations with the UNC, the government should avoid taking a drastic step to reverse its predecessor’s decision to bifurcate the Senapati district, a move that will be opposed by the Kuki community. It should also stay true to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s promise that there will be no compromise of Manipur’s integrity in the accord being negotiated between Naga insurgents and the Central government. Ethnic strife is a tricky issue to negotiate, but the BJP-led coalition could make a fresh start by delivering a clean administration, a promise that won it new adherents, many of whom were disenchanted with the previous Congress regime.

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Printable version | Jun 4, 2020 1:23:10 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/on-the-bjp-led-coalition-winning-the-elections-in-manipur/article17566031.ece

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