Manipur: Facing call for President's Rule, Centre may use force to lift blockade
A delegation of BJP leaders from Manipur will meet Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday to discuss the law and order situation in the state.
"We want the central government to ease the suffering of the people who are bearing the brunt of the economic blockade," state BJP president Bhabananda Singha told Catch. "We want them to ensure that essential items get to Imphal. It is a total failure of the administrative machinery of the state government."
The Manipur BJP recently adopted a resolution seeking President's Rule in the state. But the central government is unlikely to concede the demand, BJP sources said, considering Manipur is one of the five states that go to polls in just a couple of months. "Since there is very little time to impose President's Rule before the assembly election, it could create constitutional issues. That is the only issue. Otherwise, the state government should be dismissed since it has failed to contain the law and order situation," a BJP leader said, asking not to be named.
Moreover, the bruising legal defeats in the cases of Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand - where the imposition of President's Rule was quashed by the Supreme Court - is likely to deter the Narendra Modi government from attempting the same in Manipur.
BJP leaders blame the unrest squarely on Congress Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh, alleging that he's exploiting emotions of the people in order to save his government from an anti-incumbency wave. He's openly siding with the Meities, the BJP leaders allege, because they make up a significant vote bank.
But this strategy won't help the Congress, Singha insisted. "The people here see how the situation is unfolding," he said. "Moreover, there was barely any opposition to the Congress, even in 2012."
Indeed, the BJP has emerged as a serious challenger to the Congress's hegemony in Manipur, especially after the party's spectacular victory in Assam earlier this year.
The BJP sources said the Modi regime could deploy central paramilitary forces to ensure movement of trucks carrying essential commodities to the landlocked state. The home ministry has already rushed more than 2,500 troops to the state over the past two weeks.
The United Naga Council's blockade, imposed on 1 November, of national highways 2 and 37 - Imphal-Dimapur and Imphal-Jiribam - to protest the Ibobi Singh government's decision to carve two new districts out of Jiribam and Sadar Hills has badly impacted daily life. The demonetisation exercise has only compounded the misery.
"There is already a precedent. In 2010, the UPA government employed force to clear highway blockade," a BJP leader said.
But wouldn't using force further inflame the Naga protestors? "This option has to be exercised if normalcy has to be restored," the leader said, adding, tellingly, "The BJP is aiming to win the election."
The Ibobi Singh government's decision to constitute seven new districts has divided Manipur deeply. While the Nagas, who mainly reside in the hills, are against the formation of new districts, people in the valley, mostly the Meiteis, are furious at the blockade.
The hill-valley divide was already sharpened by the valley people's demand to bring back the Inner Line Permit.
Addressing a press conference after meeting Rajnath Singh in Delhi on Wednesday, United Naga council leader Adani Mao said, "We appeal for President's Rule in Manipur as the state government has failed completely on all fronts and the law and order situation has deteriorated." He insisted that "creation of seven new districts is a ploy by the chief minister for electoral gains".