The ruling Congress party in Manipur is attempting a hat-trick in the northeastern state where the ongoing insurgency and memories of hardships during last year’s four month long blockade threaten to upset its game plan.
Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh is projecting “improvement” in the state’s financial health and timely payment of salaries to public officials among his government’s “achievements” ahead of the upcoming polls.
However, the opposition parties are targeting the government for its failure to ensure supply of essential commodities during the blockade, fake encounters, failure to repeal the controversial Armed Forces Special Protection Act (AFSPA) and rampant corruption in government departments.
The BJP has termed 10 years of Congress reign as the “dark decade”, in its ‘charge sheet’ released against the government.
“Extortions, blockades, bandhs and killings have become the order of the day, making Manipur totally unsafe for common people,” says Prakash Javadekar, BJP’s National Spokesman and Election in-charge of Manipur. BJP leader Prakash Jawadekar spoke to KG Suresh about the emerging poll scenario in Manipur. Excerpts:
What role do you see for BJP in the upcoming Manipur elections?
Manipur is infested with insurgents. More than 40 underground organisations are active here. There is a total collapse of law and order, blockades and bandhs are the order of the day. The Congress government led by Ibobi Singh has made a record of corruption. BJP has pro-actively raised different issues pertaining to Manipur at the Centre. We have charge sheeted the Ibobi Singh government, we have created a big non-Congress front also. So, for BJP, the things are ripening up from every perspective.
What are the major issues in Manipur?
The major issues in Manipur are insurgency, rise in prices, law and order, corruption and development. In the last five years alone, this land-locked state has seen more than 100 blockades and many of them had lasted for more than 100 days in a row. The Congress governments both at the Centre and the state have been apathetic to it.
What is the stand of your party on AFSPA?
Once the rule of law is stabilised through good governance and dialogue, once the law and order improves, there shall not be any need to invoke AFSPA.
The economy of Manipur has been badly damaged by the economic blocked. What plan do you have to rectify it?
First of all the National Highway has to be improved. Secondly, there must be parallel rail connectivity from Silchar to Moore via Imphal. Better stocking of essential goods with more go-downs is also needed. The state has to be liberated from the curse of insurgency and blockades first.
Do you have any solution to the insurgency in the state of Manipur?
We believe that a 3-D approach can bring about a big change in the insurgency situation in Manipur. The 3-Ds stand for—Development, Dialogue, and Deterrence. A curious case is reflected in the plight of Advocate General of the state, who was travelling with a minister in a car and was shot and injured from within the car. Still no complaint was made because of political reasons. How such a state can deal with insurgency?
What do you think should be done to end the ethnic conflicts among the Nagas, Kukis and Maities?
It is not conflict. Much of it is related to the divide and rule policy of the Congress. Once you have the political will to engage the people in the process of dialogue and once you are capable to deliver good governance, the enormous capacity of the people for peaceful co-existence will come to the fore.
How do you look at the NPF contesting the polls.
NPF is a political platform. They have been contesting elections earlier as well.
Your party president Nitin Gadkari has proposed a vision document for the North East. How important is North East India in the party’s scheme of things?
We already have vision documents for Assam and Manipur. Soon there shall be vision document for all the states. For BJP, the North East carries as much weight as any other part of the country. Besides, its diversity, complexity, strategic location etc. make it even more important to us.
Other than you, which other national leader have campaigned in Manipur.
Our party president Nitin Gadkari has campaigned in the state, and so have many other central leaders and members of Parliament. It is a long list.
Are you hopeful of victory?
Manipur is a small state with some 25 lakhs population and 18 lakh voters. There are 30-35 thousand voters in each constituency. Besides the three major ethnic groups and a large Muslim population, there are small pockets of Maras, Nepalis, Bengalis, Tamils, Rajasthanis and a small population of Sikhs also. So, it is like a big corporation election. People are angry with the Congress and we are hopeful of getting a non-Congress government in place there.