Dissidents but not dissenting the Congress rule in Manipur

With less than ten (10) months for the next assembly election, dissidents in the Manipur State Legislative Assembly have surfaced or rather come out in the open with Congress president Sonia Gandhi summoning Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh to New Delhi for discussions.
Reportedly the dissidents, about ten of them have been demanding reshuffle and be inducted into the council of ministers in the current Congress led government in Manipur.
In the 2012 assembly polls the Congress won a whopping 47 seats out of the total of 60. These is a major victory but have also been a tough task for the State Congress leadership to make all the Congress elected legislators happy. This also have left the state assembly with literally no opposition in the bench, which is a mere 13 members that too from different political party the AITC, NPF , BJP , NCP and JP.
As far as the State Congress party is concerned in Manipur, there have not been any major dissidents or desertion from/by congress members. The party has been in power for three consecutive terms as well. The party have also been having a smooth and comfortable rule for decades, as the state not only saw the last 15 years of congress rule under Ibobi Singh but in the past too, ever since its statehood.
For the last 40 years, Manipur saw very few government led by non INC . The Manipur Peoples Party in 1972 when the Manipur was granted statehood. Other party includes Janata Party in 1977, The Manipur State Congress Party in 1997 and Samata Party in 2001. These parties though do not last for more than a year or one term.
Presently, the tribal hill legislators, a total of 20 members in the state assembly have been boycotted by the various civil society organizations. In the aftermath of the violent uprising against the passing of the three controversial Bills in the state assembly in August 2015, where in 9 people have been killed and the protest still continuing. The 20 MLA – 16 of them from INC and 4 from NPF, have been facing “social boycott” by the public at large.

Recently, the Joint Action Committee – JAC Against the three Bills has reiterated their stand in the “social boycott” particularly MLAs from Churachandpur district, that has a total of 6 Congress Legislator. The committee strongly came out with a statement on March 10, stating that these MLAs shall not be allowed to set foot on tribal territories and not be given any platform in public functions and ceremonies. Earlier the JAC has also publicly declared Boycott in September 2015, soon after the public uprising against the three Bills.

It may be also recalled that All tribal Students Union Manipur had made an appeal on August 30, 2015 to all tribal MLAs to abstain from the special session of the Manipur State Assembly wherein the three bills viz, the Protection of Manipur Peoples’ Bill, 2015; The Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms (seventh amendment) Bill, 2015 were intended to be passed, however, the appeal has gone unheeded.
It may be mentioned that there are four tribal Ministers in Ibobi’s cabinet, currently. Further all the 20 tribal MLAs including the minister have been asked to “step down “by the JAC last year. Of which none of them have so far been reported to officially resign.
It is believed that the said call for social boycott and demand for resignation of the tribal MLAs have also reached the congress high command in New Delhi. Though this may not be in written, as the MLAs have been requested to resign on “moral grounds” the Congress high command is expected to have information about the ongoing situation as far as the Congress led government in Manipur is concerned. Whether there have been a serious considerations on the matter by the high command is all together another matter and remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, the BJP and the ruling NDA government is believed to have been keeping a close watch on the developments in the hills, particularly situation in Churachandpur with the ongoing protest and nine bodies still lying unburied since September last year. But until now, as far as the state BJP is concerned with its own internal crisis in leadership have been unable to do much, neither in tackling the issue confronting the state nor questioning the state assembly over the impasse in the on-going protest against the three Bills.
BJP Manipur president Th.Chaoba have also been exposed of siphoning funds during the general election in 2014 ( The Statesman September 22, 2014) . The amount reportedly ran into lakhs of rupees.
In its attempt to take the current churning inside the state ruling congress party, now the state BJP chief claims that the dissident Congress legislators have been lining up to get admission into his party. This is unlikely, though few of the dissident may have been considering hopping on to another party or to the BJP, most of the legislators are known to be strong Congress loyalist.
Earlier, after formation of the new government in 2012 reportedly CM Ibobi had told the INC elected MLAs that given the large number of members elected from the INC, his ministry would be reshuffled and that a rotational shift would be considered in the cabinet ministers. This never happened.
Pulling up the state Chief Minister at a time when election is in the near maybe a good move by the Congress high command. But this might not go in favor of the Congress, as the move comes in a little too late, while the dissident’s move too is questionable as it comes in after their term is almost over. A change in the minister berth too would not make much of a difference either, with less than a year in hand before the state goes to polls.
All in all, the entire dissident’s move is unlikely to bring in any major reshuffle. In case of any change in the ministry, it would not affect the next election either – in terms of giving congress a major boost, which is in any case, with or without dissidents among the legislators, the Congress is losing out popularity , particularly in the hill areas.
With polls ahead, the dissidents, if serious could have deserted the party on their own. Even as many of the MLAs, the 20 tribal MLAs to be specific, have already face the wrath of the general public, will the Congress party high command’s intervention in terms of a mere re-shuffle in the state government be of any impact and save the face of the congress in Manipur remains to be seen in the coming election next year.
Link - http://thenortheasttoday.com/dissidents-but-not-dissenting-the-congress-rule-in-manipur/

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