Setting its eyes on territorial integrity, BJP tries hard to make inroads into Manipur

Setting its eyes on territorial integrity, BJP tries hard to make inroads into Manipur

Submitted by alvin on Mon, 2016-09-26 11:00 New Delhi: BJP kick-started its election campaign early in Manipur which will go to polls early 2017. Party national president Amit Shah, HRD minister Prakash Javdekar, Ram Madhav, Himant Biswa Sarma who visited Imphal last week exhorted the people to give the Saffron party a chance.Territorial integrity seem to be the favourite topic of the politicians. Even Amit Shah said “not an inch of Manipur will change”. In fact, with Congress too speaking about territorial integrity, this would be the deciding factor in this elections.Congress government in the state has been claiming that it had been protecting Manipur territory and will not compromise on anything. True to it, Ibobi Singh has been riding on the territorial integrity slogan for more than a decade now. Territory or Manipur state boundary is a sentimental issue, particularly in the valley, and three-time Chief Minister Ibobi Singh has been effectively holding on to the issue.Manipur’s territory (actual or perceived) has been under threat ever since the long-drawn NSCN (IM) and Government of India’s peace talks reportedly inched towards a final negotiation. However, the negotiation talks did not mention about territorial limits and as a result – in June 2011 – there was a public uprising in which 18 youths lost their lives. Another being the state government’s brutal opposition to Muivah (NSCN – IM supremo and key negotiator) visit to his native in Ukhrul district in May 2010.When Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced Peace Framework in 2015, ‘territorial integrity’ of Manipur became even more significant and crucial for both the ruling Congress and the BJP to make a pitch around it. In his attempt to make an explosive statement on Manipur’s territory, Deputy Chief Minister Gaikhangam has termed the August Framework a ‘time bomb’.In this backdrop, Amit Shah and his team are making the right noises for the coming election, at least in the valley  with “Manipur state boundary” as its score point. Shah has touched the right chord among the masses in the valley, which is inhabited by the majority Meitei community to whom territory issue is close to the heart. Not that the territorial integrity is not a matter of importance in the hills. For, the NSCN (IM) and GoI negotiation is as crucial in the hills as in the valley. In fact, the stakes are higher in the hills as it is inhabited by the Nagas and the Kuki-Zo communities. As the Nagas waited in anticipation for the final negotiation, the Kuki-Zo community is equally an important stakeholder.  But Amit Shah limited his visit to Imphal as he appears to be focussing only on the prospects in the valley.The four valley districts have 40 legislators in the state assembly, while the five hill districts inhabited by the tribals has 20 legislators. Shah and BJP’s calculation to focus on the valley could prove them productive, as the valley alone has the potential to give them the desired numbers. In a rather (un) imaginable figure, Shah hoped for 50 seats.Manipur has always been a Congress stronghold. The 2014 election wave had not made an impact wherein Congress was able to retain the two Lok Sabha seats. Eventually, though, post 2014 parliamentary election and 2016 Assam state elections, there have been expectations that BJP is likely to make further inroads into Manipur, one of the last Congress' bastion. The expectation is obvious with Congress' weak governance, law and order crisis, corruption, unemployment and communal-ethnic polarisation over the years. During his address, Shahaccused Ibobi government of corrupt and failure. While Shah tried to score a point by touching upon sensitive territory issue, he, however, made no attempt or rather conveniently left other crucial issues – the ongoing protest   in Churachandpur district and other tribal areas against the contentious Bills related to Inner Line Permit System – untouched. This is an unlikely oversight and appears to be a deliberate omission in the larger scheme of things.No doubt, Amit Shah’s visit created ripples in the valley. Social media was abuzz with strong reactions. Michael Lamjathang Haokip asked “Will the Lotus float in the hills of Manipur, where there is no ponds and lakes available?”. Zamlunmang zou asked “Territorial Integrity will be the chorus of the election campaign in the valley. What will be the chorus in the hills?”Meanwhile, the NSCN/ GPRN (Khurmi region) has issued an early warning dated 27 Juy 2016 to the Nagas against election campaign and related activity