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Manipur verdict

The Congress is back in office in Manipur. The record of the previous Congress-led government did not make return to power a smooth passage. The Naga-Kuki-Meiti antagonisms made short work of law and order in the state. The 4-month economic blockade caused great hardship to the people which discredited the government. Insurgency continued to be rampant with the PLA leading the pack. Irom Sharmila had become a cult figure fasting indefinitely against the military presence in the state which was also against the government. Smuggling across the Myanmar border undermined Manipur’s economy. Former Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh did not have a stable base in the Congress party. Yet the Congress has romped in with 37 seats in the 60-member state assembly. Only once in 1967 did the Congress have a clear majority to form a government. It has done it again. The opposition, the People’s Democratic Alliance (PDA) comprised 11 non-Congress parties but it was badly mauled. Opposition leader Radhabinod Koijam, NCP Manipur Unit President was defeated. He had been projected by the PDA for the post of Chief Minister. What is surprising is the success of the Trinamool Congress Party which won 17% of the vote. It is at best a regional party focused in West Bengal and its leader Mamata Banerjee’s standoff with Bangladesh over the Teesta project has been detrimental to the interests of the Northeast.

The absolute majority of the Congress in the Assembly should strengthen the hands of the new government which has to face daunting challenges in pushing through economic development. It has to protect against economic blockade in the land-locked state. Its relations with the Centre should improve though the UPA is a bit shaky following reverses in UP. The new government may now proceed smoothly with the SEZ at Imphal. However, its main task will be to bring harmony among the tribal groups while keeping insurgency at bay.

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