NPF, an ally of BJP: Will Manipur CM be able to lift economic blockade?
Imphal, March 16: First, the assembly elections in Manipur were conducted under the shadow of economic blockade on March 4 and March 8. To everyone's relief (especially of the Election Commission), the polls were conducted almost 'smoothly' with incidents of a couple of bomb blasts that rocked the state before and during the elections.
On Wednesday, the Bharatiya Janata Party formed the government in the state for the first time, again under the shadow of economic blockade that has brought life to a standstill in the hill state.
On Thursday, Manipur entered the 135th day of the economic blockade. Since November 1, the United Naga Council-- an umbrella organisation of Naga civil society organisations-- has imposed a blockade on NH-2 (Imphal-Dimapur) and NH-37 (Imphal-Jiribam) highways that serve as lifelines for the landlocked Manipur.
The new chief minister of Manipur, N Biren Singh, just ahead of his swearing-in ceremony hosted at Raj Bhavan, Imphal, during a victory rally of the BJP said that lifting the economic blockade will be his government's first priority.
However, lifting the blockade immediately seems difficult as the BJP government in the state is in alliance with the Naga People's Front. "The NPF shares close-ties with the UNC. Thus it would require a lot of negotiations on the part of the BJP to end the blockade," said a local journalist from Imphal.
The blockade was imposed by the UNC to protest against the creation of the seven new districts by the last Congress government in Manipur. While the Naga groups claim they were not consulted before the announcement, the then government said it was done for administrative ease.
Even during an election rally in Imphal, Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised the voters to lift the economic blockade, once the BJP comes to power in the state. The Congress accused the Centre of siding with the UNC by not lifting the blockade. Because of the blockade, prices of essential commodities and fuels have increased massively as there is a shortage of supply.
In the current Manipur Assembly, the BJP government has the support of 31 MLAs. While 21 are BJP MLAs, four are from the National Peoples Party, four Naga People's Front, one Lok Janashakti Party legislator and the defected Congress MLA Shyamkumar Singh.