The Manipur State Assembly elections are over and the Indian National Congress (INC) under Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh has, once again, emerged victorious with a whopping majority winning 42 of the 60 seats on offer. This makes Ibobi Singh the first CM in the state to score a hat-trick and among the very few at the national level.
However, considering that he has faced severe criticism on how he handled the 120-day economic blockade in the state, for the lack of development, an 11-party opposition alliance during the elections, a Core Committee of Manipur insurgent groups banning Congress candidates from contesting and a national newspaper headline reading “Manipur CM is corrupt: WikiLeaks”, I can hardly fathom the fact that he is back in power, again.
I am not alone here as many of my friends, colleagues and people from my own state, Manipur, still wonder how the Congress under Ibobi came back to power after all the criticism that he’s been getting for
the last ten years.
But again, there are certain areas where he proved a point to the people of the state and this could have brought him back in power.
Since Rishang Keishing (INC), 1981-88, no other political party or leader has given the state political stability that Ibobi Singh has managed to. From March 4, 1988 to March 6, 2002, the state had witnessed three President’s Rule tenures and six Chief Ministers. Or for that matter, since the first CM of the state in 1963, Manipur has seen severe political instability resulting in the President’s Rule being imposed on ten different occasions.
However, since Ibobi took over as the Chief Minister of the state on March 7, 2002, Manipur has been, perhaps, the most stable state, especially because there are no fears of Central rule being imposed.
Tough Stand against Militants
Militancy or insurgency is, no doubt, one of the biggest issues in the state. Through the years, militants have been feared for their inhuman acts such as kidnapping for ransom, child recruitment, attacks and even murders of government servants and civilians in the state.
However, such incidents have come down after Ibobi’s government set up Manipur Police Commandos to hunt down militants and insurgents. His tough and strong stance against the militants has been much appreciated by a large section of the state’s population and this could have played a role in his coming back to power.
In a state which has ethnic dispute between the Nagas and the Meiteis, many people believe that Gaikhangam, the president of the INC, is a tool of Ibobi to maintain peace between the two ethnic groups. Gaikhangam, being an MLA from one of the largest Naga districts of the state, has been working for peace between the Nagas and the Meiteis, for it is believed by many people, including me, that the day Ibobi let goes Gaikhangam, the Nagas in the state will feel left out and disintegrate themselves from Congress, Ibobi, and eventually the state.
Perhaps, it is for this very reason that Ibobi has made Gaikhangam the president of the party and depends on him for dealing with all ethnic issues.
Amidst the intense debate on disintegration of Manipur wherein Nagaland wanted to bring all the Naga occupied district of the state under its administration, Ibobi Singh refused the entry of Th. Muivah, General Secretary of NSCN-IM, into the state.
Though this triggered a big and intense protest from the Nagas residing in the state, Ibobi proved to the people of the state that he was keeping the state’s territory intact. And that nothing from outside would ever interfere in the administration of the state or challenge its territorial integrity.
The headline “Manipur CM is corrupt: WikiLeaks” says a lot. Beyond all doubts, money factor must have definitely played a major role in Congress’ coming back to power. In whichever or whatever way he uses the money power is anyone’s guess.
In one of my earlier blogs, I had written that I was already expecting the Indian National Congress under Ibobi Singh to come back to power; and it’s come true. Now, one can only hope that his government bring peace and prosperity in the state.
(The views expressed by the author are personal)