How no-trust vote on Manipur has put BJP on the back foot

Though no-confidence motion is most likely to be defeated on the floor of the House, it might breach perception of ‘invincibility’ surrounding Modi and also dent the credibility of his government, which in turn may impact the BJP’s prospects in 2024 polls, writes Gopal Misra

With its sizable majority in the Lok Sabha, the BJP-led PM Narendra Modi government is expected to wade through the no-confidence resolution tabled in the wake of Manipur violence. The sponsors, a group of disparate political outfits, are aware that motion might be defeated, yet the ruling party is worried.

It is just not the political confrontation as the decade-old Modi Government is pitted against, but the heat of the wrath of the judiciary has alarmed the ruling party.  The Chief Justice, D.Y. Chandrachud summoned Attorney General, R.Venkataramani and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, to tell them that either book the perpetrators of the crime in the video showing two women being paraded naked and sexually assaulted in strife-ridden Manipur or step aside for the judiciary to take action.

The motion most likely to be defeated on the floor of the House, but it might breach the perception regarding Modi’s ‘invincibility’ as well as the credibility of his government, which may adversely affect  the ruling party’s prospects in the 2024  Lok Sabha polls. For this faux pas, only Modi and his cronies in the ruling party have to be blamed for their failure in tackling the Manipur crisis, which erupted following a High Court verdict giving tribal status to the Meiteis promptly.

The highlanders, Kukis, opposed the judicial verdict leading to unprecedented violence in the state. The Meiteis argue that before the merger agreement between the Manipur kingdom and the Union of India in 1949, the British had designated the Meiteis as a “tribe amongst tribes”. “We are essentially demanding the restoration of our tribal status that we had under the British,” they argued. A review petition is already pending before the High Court.

It is being asserted that the opposition is not going into the merits or demerits of the issue, but is focusing on the country-wide anguish over the surfacing of a video clip which shows two women being paraded naked and molested by their tormentors in Manipur. The women were later gangraped. Though a gory incident occurred on May 4 in Kangpokpi district, the video surfaced 40 days after the incident.

The opposition is also focussing on the failure of the ruling party including PM Narendra Modi and Manipur CM N. Biren Singh for their failure to book the culprits for their unpardonable crime even after 79 days of filing the police reports. The issue is being camouflaged by the ‘unpardonable’ behaviour of some social media channels believed to be close to the ruling party depicting the crisis as a Hindu-Christian conflict.

The number game

The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government having a substantial majority, including the 301 members of the BJP, with a total of 331-strong presence cannot be defeated in the House. The combined opposition parties, including two national and 24 regional outfits, could barely manage the support of less than 200 in the 543-strong House under the banner of the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA). Yet the strategists in the opposition camp are optimistic about a paradigm change in the common pro-Modi perception by focusing upon the ‘anguish’ of the common Indian on the unpardonable crimes in Manipur.

The sponsors of the motion are believed to be led by the Congress president, M. Mallikarjun Kharge, and have also commissioned powerful speakers such as irrepressible Mahua Moitra of the Trinamool Congress, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, Leader of the Congress Party and many other powerful orators in the Lok Sabha.

The mood of the new alliance under the banner of INDIA is to launch a country-wide political battle encircling the government on issues like the human rights, dignity of women, manipulation of investigating agencies and press freedom for political gains. They appear to be using BJP’s slogan that “Modi hai to Mumkin hai” meaning “it is possible, if Modi is at the helm of the state affairs”. They are asking why no action was taken against the erring police officers, who had handed over the women to the crowd to be paraded naked and thus, punctured the 56-inch chest of Modi being projected as the only bold and effective leader of India.

The impact of the violence  

It is difficult to explain how the wonderful people of Manipur living in the hills, the Kukis-Nagas, and Meiteis, mostly concentrated in the plains, are being pitted against each other. It is being stated that the Kukis had triggered demonstrations at Churachandpur on May 3, and the violence erupted following the counter agitation by Meiteis. It is yet to be explained why the state government did not take effective measures to rein in violence despite detailed reports of the spread of violence. The death toll, according to available reports, has already crossed 142 with more than 300 wounded, and approximately 54,488 displaced, but the Manipur administration is not doing anything to quell the violence.

The Meiteis in the adjoining states such as Mizoram are seeking refuge in safer areas, including Kolkata. The exodus is continuing despite  Mizoram Chief Minister, Zoram Thanga’s repeated appeals offering security to the Manipuris working in state as doctors, teachers and in other professions.

The government is also being accused of adopting an ostrich approach genuinely believing that Manipur being a remote region would not get adequate attention of the country.

The anthropological studies reveal that the word, “Kuki” used synonymously with Mizo, Zomi, Chin, Zo, Lushai and an all-inclusive CHIKUMI (short for Chin-Kuki-Mizo) and Meiteis have common genes. Therefore, the violence among them is fratricide. The warring groups genetically belong to the same roots and are known for their valour. For the armed forces, the region is also a place for recruiting soldiers. The Naga regiment raised from the region comprises one of the most feared regiments by India’s enemies.

Manipur’s contribution

Manipur’s contribution alone in the field of sports is well known. It has produced several great sportspersons – boxers like MC Mary Kom; weightlifters like N. Kunjarani Devi, Mirabai Chanu, and Khumukcham Sanjita Chanu; hockey players like Tingonleima Chanu; and footballers like Jackson Singh Thounaojam, Givson Singh Moirangthem.

The region has also provided strong national leaders like Purno Sangma, 1947 –2016, who had successfully served as the Speaker of the Lok Sabha from 1996 to 1998, had contested for the presidency in 2012 with the support of the BJP and AIADMK against the Congress nominee, Pranab Mukherjee.  He had lost the election.

Meanwhile, Mizoram CM Zoramthanga, who is well aware of the possible role of foreign powers, especially China in meddling in the Manipur crisis, has offered to mediate to end the strife.

The government’s poor handling of the Manipur violence accompanied by the false or cooked up narratives of the sponsored social media has eclipsed pro-active efforts of Narendra Modi and the Union Home Minister, Amit Shah, in the region. To their credit, the duo has successfully ended feuds among the warring groups among Bodos in Assam and have rehabilitated the Bru families, a branch of the Kuki tribe in Tripura. The Bru were made to suffer for decades, leading sub-human life in tattered camps without adequate food and even without potable water.

The Union Government’s affidavit before the Supreme Court just exposes its ineptitude, if not the ‘mischief’ of the government, says Ravinder Kumar, a senior advocate. The affidavit says that it has identified the person who had made the video, but has taken no action against the police officer, who had handed over the wife of the military officer, who had fought in the Kargil War, to the mob to be paraded naked.

Like the Odisha railway accident killing nearly 300 passengers, in Manipur too, it is feared that the CBI is being deployed, perhaps to save the BJP’s Manipur government from any.