Will the Modi factor work in Manipur?
MANY central leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party rushing in to Manipur to join the election campaign for party candidates clearly testifies that the political party, which is holding the reins of power at the centre, is determined to end the three-term rule of the Congress government and launch its innings in the eastern most state of the country. After the overwhelming victory in the Assam assembly where it won 86 out of 126 assembly seats and vanquished the ruling Congress, which too had ruled one of the most developed states in the region for the last 15 years, there is no doubt that the BJP is eyeing to bag Manipur too. From central party leaders entrusted to oversee preparedness of the state unit for the 11th Manipur Legislative Assembly election, to Union ministers, who have been flocking into the state for election campaigns, the latest prominent figure who arrived to sustain the poll momentum is the Union home minister Rajnath Singh. As had been already announced, Prime Minister Narendra Modi too will soon be coming here to canvas support for the party candidates. Ahead of the duo’s visits, there has been apprehension among some sections of the society whether or not the contents of the framework agreement signed between the Centre and the NSCN-IM pose any threat to the territorial integrity of Manipur, which Rajnath has allayed to a certain extent by declaring that the people of Manipur have nothing to worry about with the pact.
With leaders spearheading the election campaign of the ruling Congress making it a point to rake up the framework agreement, apparently to neutralise whatever advantage the BJP might have gained in the run up to the crucial polls, Prime Minister Narendra Modi too would be under pressure to dwell on the deal with the Naga rebel group. Without any doubt, it was the Modi wave that propelled the BJP to power at the Centre after the resounding victory in the 2014 parliamentary elections and the party’s Manipur unit would be hoping that his charisma turn the tide in BJP’s favour this time around. Regardless of being in power at the Centre, year 2015 had seen the BJP suffering defeat at the hands of Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi and comprehensively beaten by a motley coalition in Bihar. Political analyst see its sole success in the following year in Assam as a triumph over an ageing chief minister and his tried, tested and tired Congress party, though the taste of victory turned sour as the Modi magic could not have the desired impact in the West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry elections. There was little doubt at that stage that the wind of popular expectations which swept Modi to power at the Centre had dissipated. As such elections being conducted in five states, including the politically prestigious Uttar Pradesh, are an opportunity for the BJP, Narendra Modi in particular, to redeem himself as the ‘architect of change’, as his supporters have always claimed.