IMPHAL: It is advantage Congress in strife-torn and poll-bound Manipur. The party,
which is eyeing fourth term on the trot, seemed to have killed two birds with one stone.
If the Congress divided the growing tribal unity, particularly between Kukis and
Nagas, by upgrading Sadar Hills to a full-fledged district, it managed to reach out to the dominant Meitei (Manipuri) community by cashing in on the ethnic fire, which was a consequence of the decision on Sadar Hills.
According to Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju, 154 companies of central paramilitary forces were already deployed in Manipur. But Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh kept looking at the Centre
for help towards clearing the two National Highways – lifelines of the State – on which the United Naga Council (UNC) enforced an “economic blockade” since November 1 in protest against the elevation of Sadar Hills to a district.
Till the government’s decision on the creation of the seven districts, particularly Sadar Hills, the Congress was faced with a strong anti-incumbency wave. The BJP, which is focussed on doing an Assam in Manipur, is viewed by many as a party tilted more towards the Nagas. The BJP is a partner of Naga People’s Front (NPF), which is seen as an “outcast” in Manipur, and a constituent of Nagaland’s ruling coalition.
The UNC claims that Sadar Hills is the “ancestral homeland” of the Nagas and its elevation would now make the Kukis to claim it as their homeland. UNC general secretary Milan Shimray alleged that by upgrading “Naga ancestral homeland” Sadar Hills to a district, the Ibobi government was trying to divide the tribals.
The decision on Sadar Hills is being viewed as Ibobi’s masterstroke. The Kukis had
for long been demanding its elevation and by ceding to the demand, the Congress virtually managed to breach tribal unity.
The Congress also gained from the ethnic frenzy arising out of the UNC-enforced blockade. As people continue to suffer due to an acute shortage of supplies, the Congress managed to build an anti-BJP mood by accusing the Narendra Modi government of not doing enough in clearing the roads. The BJP was quick to react with Rijiju asserting that law and order was a State subject.
The BJP has sniffed a greater design in Ibobi government’s decision on the seven districts and its not utilizing the paramilitary forces in clearing the highways. Without naming Ibobi or his Congress, Rijiju had told the media: “Nobody should try to take any political advantage out of a humanitarian crisis. Election is coming up (in Manipur) and so, there may be some political game plan”.