Sour in centre-state relations?
IT would not be wrong to assume that the continuous sparring between leaders of the Congress government in Manipur and the Union government headed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over the protracted imposition of economic blockade has exposed souring relations between the Centre and the state. Even though there have been instances of the state and the Central governments exploring ways to end the humanitarian crisis gripping Manipur at the juncture, political leaders resorting to blame-game merely to draw the people’s attention ahead of the crucial state assembly elections seem to have been posing as a serious hurdle towards collective efforts for mitigating the public hardships. Amid such bickering, reports about the Centre reviewing the situation in the state and asking airlines to airlift life-saving drugs to the blockade-hit and landlocked Manipur, along with providing central forces to sanitise the two lifelines, could be construed as the central leaders not only concerned by the distressful condition of the people here but also an indication that it would do the needful to bail out the state masses from their miserable situation, irrespective of differences in ideology and agenda between the BJP and the Congress. In case the on-going economic blockade lingers, it would be wishful thinking to have a free and fair election in the state for politicians would leave no stone unturned in blowing the blockade issue out of proportion unmindful of the fact that such a ploy would deeply polarise the society.
Hit hard by the siege laid on the two national highways in Manipur sector, the state masses would be waiting with bated breath to know whether or not the January 23 tripartite talks involving representatives of state, Central and UNC would bring an end to the nearly three months old blockade, which has been causing serious shortage of essential goods, including petroleum products and life-saving drugs. On account of the High Court of Manipur decreeing that there should be no restriction in case UNC president Gaidon Kamei wants to participate in the proposed tripartite talk, the agitating Naga body should be delighted that one of its demands, which is presence of Gaidon and publicity secretary Stephen in the meeting, has been fulfilled. However, the negotiation could not be expected to be smooth sailing as UNC had been insisting that the talk venue should either be in New Delhi or Senapati, contrary to the state government’s invitation mentioning the Old Secretariat conference hall for the meeting. Many would be hopeful that the deadlock over venue could be settled in case the Centre intervenes and succeeds in bringing the UNC representatives to the negotiating table. Manipur is not the first to experience discord in the Centre-state relationships as was evident from Mamata Banerjee engaging the central leaders in verbal duel in recent times that prompted the Centre to station additional CRPF personnel to protect the West Bengal BJP office. Significantly, there have been sporadic reports about BJP office and supporters coming under attacks in Kerala, thus testifying that in some states, particularly those ruled by non-BJP political entities, the Centre-state ties has soured to a great extent. Senior BJP leaders need to look up and take necessary measures so that the unity of the country is kept intact, instead of allowing the rookies to involve in the mudslinging, unnecessarily. In Manipur’s context, the hapless state masses must be hoping that the Centre would continue to extend all possible support to ensure regular supply of essential goods as well as end the blockade issue without further delay.