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Sunday, Oct 20, 2019

100 days of Manipur govt: Lifting of blockade is CM Biren’s biggest feat

Quelling protests over creation of new districts and burial of bodies of eight people killed in the 2015 police firing in Churachandpur wre two key mission the government realised.

india Updated: Jun 30, 2017 09:39 IST
Rahul Karmakar & Sobhapati Samom
Rahul Karmakar & Sobhapati Samom
Hindustan Times, Guwahati/Imphal
Chief Minister of Manipur Nongthongbam Biren
Chief Minister of Manipur Nongthongbam Biren(Vipin Kumar/HT PHOTO)

Having been an ace footballer, Nongthongbam Biren was expected to dribble out of critical situations. He did, and gave the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) its first government in Manipur, albeit in coalition with regional parties.

The BJP came from behind to end 15 years of Congress rule in Manipur. The saffron party won 21 of the 60 assembly seats, seven less than the Congress which was three short of the majority mark. But BJP weaned away a Congress MLA and formed an alliance with three parties to form the government on May 15.

Given Manipur’s history of insurgency and ethnic conflicts necessitating a fine balancing act, the BJP’s focus on keeping the alliance government on track has kept it away from experimenting with anything viewed as pro-Hindutva.

The Biren government has so far given the impression that it is intent on mending fences and bridging the ethnic divide – within Manipur and with neighbouring states. This is significant, as most governments in Manipur are accused of being pro-Imphal Valley dominated by non-tribal people.

“The biggest challenge was to do in 15 months what the previous (Okram Ibobi Singh) government could not in 15 years. I set out by trying to bridging the gap between the hills and valley people created by the last government,” Biren said.

He added that he realised two of his key missions to restore normalcy in the state within two months of taking charge. The first was lifting of the 140-day economic blockage by Nagas protesting the creation of new districts and the second was the burial of bodies of eight people killed in police firing in Churachandpur in 2015 over three bills that were labelled anti-tribal.

Another highpoint was the meeting between Biren and his Nagaland counterpart Shurhozelie Liezietsu in May. Biren had invited Shurhozelie in a bid to bring the two states – at loggerheads over the unified Naga homeland agenda of Isak-Muivah faction of National Socialist Council of Nagaland – closer.

But a road rage case involving his son Ajay returned to haunt Biren, particularly after a Supreme Court lawyer accused his government of harassing him and the parents of Irom Roger, the youth Ajay had killed to invite a five-year sentence.

The opposition Congress has found fault with the BJP-led government on other counts too. “This government has not achieved anything. It is continuing with what the previous government had taken up. There is no visible sign of resolving the PDS crisis, construction of highways, national sports university. They are even struggling to convene the monsoon session of assembly,” N Loken, Congress legislator representing Nambol constituency, said.

A mixed bag during BJP’s debut run
End of blockade: One of Manipur’s longest economic blockades on two arterial highways imposed by United Naga Council was lifted on April 19, four days after BJP-led coalition was sworn in. It showed improvement of relations between hill and valley dwellers
Burial of 8 bodies: Eight bodies of ‘martyrs’ of a movement against ‘anti-tribal’ bills, lying in Churachandpur hospital morgue for more than 600 days, were buried on March 25. This ended a bitter battle between the government and tribal organisations
Nagaland-Manipur bonhomie: Nagaland chief minister Shurhozelie Liezietsu’s visit to Imphal on May 9 on his Manipur counterpart Biren’s invitation was seen as historic in the backdrop of a prolonged conflict between Nagas and Manipuris
Meeting the people: Unlike his predecessors, Biren has fixed two days a month to meet common people at the CM’s secretariat. The 10th of every month is for meeting people from the hill districts and the 15th for those from the plains of Manipur
Anti-corruption cell: On March 24, the Manipur Cabinet decided to set up an anti-corruption cell, and within a month it received 400 complaints. This cell at the CM’s office helps people lodge complaints against graft
Irom Roger case: A road rage case, in which Biren’s son Ajay had killed Irom Roger in 2011, returned to haunt the CM. Ajay was given a five-year sentence in January this year, but Roger’s parents and their lawyer alleged harassment
PDS items: The BJP-led government has been facing criticism for failing to resolve a crisis in remote areas owing to the failure in allotting essential commodities under public distribution system
Infrastructure of new districts: Seven new districts that the Congress government created in December last year continue to be nebulous. The districts do not have the necessary infrastructure and their boundaries continue to be vague
Power crisis: Manipur has for long suffered from erratic power supply, more so in the hill districts. Promises to address this issue have not become a reality. The situation appears to have worsened in many areas
Flood problem: Manipur is natural disaster-prone, and the BJP-led government faced one of the worst flood scenarios two months after coming to power. Poor drainage system and controversial dams are adding to the government’s problems

First Published: Jun 30, 2017 07:42 IST

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