When the BJP-nominated Manipur Governor Najma Heptulla broke away from convention after the 2017 Manipur assembly polls, and offered BJP – which won just 21 seats (instead of Congress which bagged 28) – to form the government – it was evident that the saffron party had been guided by the notion, ‘power at any cost’.
The strategic border state is viewed by some as the last Hindu bastion in the Christian-dominated northeast region.
Engineering An Alliance With Turncoats
Backed by a favourable constitutional head, the BJP engineered an alliance and formed the government by wrestling the support of 12 other MLAs, including that of an MLA who had won on a Congress ticket, Thounaojam Shyamkumar. The Congress was obviously outsmarted by a well-greased and deft BJP. Hardly had it woken up from its slumber, when another blow was dealt to the Congress, with seven more Congressmen deflecting to the BJP, taking the strength of the coalition to 40.
Despite repeated petitioning by the Congress to disqualify the turncoat MLAs, the state legislative assembly speaker, Yumnam Khemchand of BJP, chose to sit idle on the issue.
The BJP high command and central leadership too, continue to remain silent on the matter.
Interestingly, Th Shyamkumar, whose support was crucial in the formation of the BJP-led coalition government, justifiably sits in the treasury bench in the legislative assembly, while the seven other Congress turncoat MLAs (who followed him), sit in the Opposition’s side.
Taking Stock Of BJP’s Promise To Fight Corruption In Manipur
For a party which fought the 2017 Manipur assembly elections on the plank of fighting corruption, the BJP seems to be failing in its commitment in the state. Despite repeated assurances by central leaders to uncover several multi-crore scandals allegedly committed during the 15-year-Congress rule, nothing substantial has come out of it, even after being in power for 27 months.
To be fair to the Biren Singh administration, the investigation into the Manipur Development Society (MDS) scam was handed over to the CBI within the first 100 days of its coming to power.
But again, despite the initial hype, the CBI investigation has not made any progress. Even the high-profile case of the Loktak Lake cleaning project scam which figured in PM prime minister Narendra Modi’s first public meeting speech in Manipur in 2014, is yet to even come into focus.
Another embarrassment for the BJP came recently when a local evening tabloid, Imphal Times, reported on the misappropriation of crores of rupees from the MP’s local area development fund of state unit BJP President, K Bhabananda Singh. All this has led to the impression that both the state as well as the central BJP leadership have conveniently pushed aside its anti-corruption stand that Prime Minister Modi had reiterated upon winning his second term in office.
A State Govt Crippled By Internal Power Struggle
While the people in the state are gradually getting disillusioned with the BJP’s promise of fighting corruption and of it being a party ‘with a difference’ that does not deal in ‘horse-trading’, the Manipur government continues to remain crippled by the ongoing power struggle within the BJP.
Accusing Chief Minister N Biren Singh of favouritism, and dictatorial in his style of functioning, the BJP’s second-in-command, IPR & RD-PR Minister, Thongnam Bishwajit Singh, has kicked up a storm, rocking the Biren Singh ministry.
Meanwhile, the chief minister has stripped both Yumnam Joykumar and Biswajit Singh of their plump posts – finance from Joykumar, and public works and power from Bishwajit, accusing both these key ministers of misappropriation.
Incidentally, Biswajit Singh and Joykumar had been accused of violating the model code of conduct during the 17th Lok Sabha elections.
The Way Forward
If the party is serious about its image and retaining the faith of the people of Manipur, it has a couple of viable options to resolve the impasse.
The first is to stick with CM Biren Singh as the chief minister for now, and allow him to clean up his act. In the meantime, the party should look for a leader to replace Biren Singh, one who is a staunch law-abider, to restore the faith in the party. And lastly, President’s Rule could be imposed on the state and fresh polls ordered, to seek the people’s mandate within six months.
(Sunzu Bachaspatimayum is a freelance journalist and documentary filmmaker based in Manipur. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)