BJP Will Find It Difficult To Retain Power On Its Own In Manipur
THE WEEK|February 06, 2022
With the Naga People’s Front angry over the Mon massacre, the BJP will find it difficult to retain power on its own in Manipur
Rabi Banerjee

EVERYONE IS FLYING SOLO this time in Manipur.

In a major blow to the ruling BJP, one of its main allies in the North-East Democratic Alliance—the Naga People’s Front (NPF)—has decided to fight alone in 15 seats that have a Naga population in Manipur. Of the 15, 11 are dominated by Nagas, and if the BJP’s alliance with the NPF had remained, it could have swept the polls.

Manipur has 60 assembly seats, of which 40 are in the valley and the rest in the hills. Apart from the Hindu Meitis, two major tribes have their presence in the valley and the hill districts—Kukis and Nagas, both of which are Christians, but follow different sects. Kukis belong to the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, whereas the Nagas belong to the Council of Baptist Churches in Northeast India. Both the tribes have often resorted to violence over land and other social disputes in the hill districts.

The Kukis have been Congress supporters, with the community producing many a Congress stalwart. To counter that, the Nagas found a political ally in the BJP. The NPF has been extending crucial support to the BJP-led government in Manipur for five years. It was thanks to the NPF that the N. Biren Singh government managed to retain power as it came under fire from within the party and from its other ally, the National People’s Party.

But that was six months ago. Today, the NPF’s support for the BJP is not very forthcoming. “It is because of the attitude of the Central government towards us,” says Honreikhui Kashung, general secretary of the NPF in Manipur. “We are alarmed and shaken by the way they killed innocent Nagas in Mon district of Nagaland, and then refused to do away with the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. The BJP-led Central government must pay the price for it.”

He, however, adds that the party “did not want the BJP to be punished by the Nagas as they are still better than the Congress”. But it is learning its lessons from Bengali politicians, he says. “The way they taught the BJP a lesson is a learning for us,” says Kashung. “We would also like to teach the same lesson to the BJP. BJP leaders in Delhi were humbled by Mamata Banerjee.”

Kashung says they are talking to smaller parties like the NPP. The Mon massacre has brought them closer to Kukis, too. The NPF is even considering supporting the Congress if the latter comes close to forming a government.

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