MANIPUR BLOCKADE LIFTED: IT IS AS MODI HAD PROMISED

A new BJP government is in place in Manipur. And even before it can prove its majority in the Manipur assembly slated for tomorrow, it has added a feather in its cap, by convincing the United Naga Council (UNC), the body representing the Naga tribal population of Manipur, to lift the economic blockade from midnight that has badly hit the state with supply of essential commodities choked.

During the campaign phase, prime minister Narendra Modi had promised that a BJP government in Manipur will end the blockade within 48 hours of assuming the office. Blaming the state’s Congress government for blockade and governance deficit, Modi had promised to develop the state in 15 months, something that he said the Congress could not do even in 15 years of its rule since 2002.

After taking oath, state’s new chief minister, it seems, took the matter on a priority basis. After a successful tripartite meeting, involving the Government of India, Manipur government and the UNC, the UNC has agreed to lift the economic blockade of national highways in Manipur that it had imposed on November 1, 2016 protesting the then Congress led Manipur government’s decision to create two new districts of Sadar Hills and Jiribam. The UNC demanded a rollback arguing that creation of new districts would affect the interests of the Naga people of the state.

The five months old blockade of the state’s two main highways has restricted its access to Nagaland, Assam and Myanmar and has crippled the delivery of essential items to the north-eastern state. Though a restricted number of supply trucks were allowed to pass every week, these were never enough.

NEW POLITICAL ALIGNMENTS

BJP leader N Biren Singh, along with eight other cabinet ministers, took oath on March 15. He is heading a coalition government of Nagaland People’s Front (NPF), National People’s Party (NPP) and Lok Janshakti Party (LJP). His government is also supported by an independent MLA, the lone TMC MLA in the house and a Congress MLA who has defected and has been made minister.

A ruling coalition involving Naga parties may have helped in convincing the UNC in taking a swift decision to remove the blockade. The NPF, ruling party of Nagaland and an NDA alliance partner, is now the BJP’s ruling partner in Manipur. Besides NPP, the party that won four seats and has got four ministerial berths in Biren Singh’s cabinet including the post of the deputy chief minister, had also got the UNC support.

Biren Singh’s BJP led coalition government is scheduled to face the trust vote tomorrow. In the 60-member strong Manipur legislative assembly, the ruling Congress party won 28 seats while the BJP got 21 seats in the recently concluded elections. A simple house majority needs support of 31 MLAs. The BJP could garner the required numbers and staked claim to form the government while the Congress’ claims were rejected as it could support them with documentary evidence. The BJP is claiming to have 33 MLAs in its fold now, including 4 each from NPF and NPP, one from LJP and TMC, one independent and one defected from the Congress.

©SantoshChaubey

BJP’S 70% VS CONGRESS’ 11%

Even if we go by the Congress’ claim that it won three states, Punjab, Goa and Manipur, in the recently concluded assembly polls, it still adds nothing significant to the spread of its influence – geographically as well as in terms of the human headcount. The Congress party has effectively lost the electoral space to act as a national alternative to the BJP.

Assembly elections were held in five states, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Goa and Manipur these results of which were announced on March 11. The BJP had swept Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand while its alliance with the SAD had seen a crushing defeat in Punjab where it was in the ruling coalition since 2007. The Congress had emerged as the largest party in Goa and Manipur but the BJP stitched the numbers fast to form coalition governments in both of these states.

The BJP and its allies were already ruling over 60% of India’s geographical area with 43% of its population before the March 11 verdict, and the sweep this time has taken it to around 70% of the landmass and 58% of the population.

With Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur in BJP’s stable, the BJP and its allies are now the ruling party/coalition in 17 Indian states while the Congress, that has ruled India for almost 55 years in its 70 years of independent, sovereign history, has shrunk to just six states with Karnataka and Punjab as the only electorally significant states in its fold. The party has ruling presence in another big state – in Bihar – but it is the junior-most alliance partner in the ruling coalition there.

In terms of geographical spread, the Congress has shrunk to just 13% of Indian territory with only 11% of the country’s population residing in areas ruled by it. Even if, for a moment, we consider that the BJP fails to prove majority in Goa and Manipur and the Congress finally forms the governments, it cannot help the Congress much, apart from giving consolation, as Goa and Manipur represent only 0.8% of India’s area and 0.34% of its population.

The BJP along with its allies, is now in all corners of the country with its 17 state governments, in north India, in central India, in south India, in West India, in east India and in north-east India, the footprint the Congress enjoyed earlier while the Congress has reduced to only few pockets.

India has 29 states and seven Union territories. Polls are held in these 29 states and two of the Union Territories, i.e., Delhi and Puducherry. The states where the BJP and its allies have their governments now are – Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Manipur, Andhra Pradesh (NDA partner TDP), Jammu & Kashmir (NDA partner PDP), Nagaland (NDA partner NPF) and Sikkim (NDA partner SDF). The party is number two in Himachal Pradesh and Delhi. The BJP is also number 2 in Bihar if we see it as the grand alliance of JDU, RJD and Congress Vs the BJP.

Other big states barring Karnataka and Punjab, are all with the regional parties who have chosen not to ally with the Congress – Tamil Nadu (AIADMK), Telangana (TRS), West Bengal (AITC), Odisha (BJD) and Kerala (Left Front).

The Congress has ruling presence in only two electorally significant states, Karnataka and Punjab. But in Karnataka where elections are due early next year, its prospects don’t look good and there are very real chances that the huge anti-incumbency against the Congress led government will allow the BJP to easily win the state. The other parties in the Congress fold are all smaller states, i.e., Himachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Puducherry.

©SantoshChaubey

COMPLACENCY COSTS CONGRESS TWO MORE STATES

Now even the Supreme Court’s seal is on it that the Congress got complacent and took matters lightly in Goa and Manipur, the two states where it had emerged as the largest party but missed the bus to stake claims. The obvious consequence to it is that a BJP chief minister has taken oath in Goa and the party’s government will be formed in Manipur with the swearing-in scheduled for tomorrow.

While hearing a Congress petition against the oath-taking ceremony of Manohar Parrikar in Goa, a special Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice JS Khehar took the Congress to task for reacting late and refused to stay Parrikar’s swearing-in. The top court observed that a ‘simple floor test’ can take care of issues raised in the petition. As directed by the Supreme Court, Manohar Parrikar led BJP government will have to prove its majority in the House on March 16.

On the counting day, after the BJP’s massive victory in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand and impressive show in Uttarakhand, senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor had some words of advice for the BJP leadership. He tweeted that the BJP was in power in two of the five states where elections were held and it lost both and therefore the party ‘shouldn’t be too complacent for 2019’ when the next parliamentary polls will be held.

But it seems, the Congress leadership got complacent with the poll results as it failed to move before the BJP in staking claims to form governments even if Amit Shah, the BJP president, had announced after the results came in that the BJP was going to form government in four states, i.e., Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur.

GOA

Even though Digvijay Singh, Goa in-charge of the Congress party, has been camping in Goa, the party failed to make its move and arrange numbers to stake claim. While the Congress was still contemplating its moves, the BJP met Goa Governor Mridula Sinha with a list 21 MLAs to stake its claim to form the government in the state with Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar as its chief minister. Now he is back as CM and the BJP is claiming to have support of 23 MLAs. This is a point where the Congress clearly failed, a fact highlighted by the Supreme Court, which said the Congress didn’t approach the Governor or the Supreme Court with its list and affidavits of the supporting MLAs.

Parrikar had resigned from the CM position in November 2014 to join Narendra Modi’s union cabinet. This will be his fourth term as Goa’s chief minister. His first two terms were from 2000 to 2002 and from 2002 to 2005.

The BJP, the incumbents in the state, won 13 assembly seats this time, four less than Congress’ 17. To prove majority in the 40-member Goa House, support of 21 members was needed. Congress needed four MLAs to scale the gap while the BJP needed eight. And the BJP arranged its eight before the Congress could garner support of four MLAs.

The BJP claims to have support of three MLAs each of the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) and the Goa Forward Party (GFP), two independents and lone NCP MLA. Then there are reports that some Congress MLAs are ready to defect to join the BJP. That the Congress has resigned to its fate becomes clear from its Goa in-charge Digvijay Singh’s reaction, who was earlier claiming to form the government, was quoted saying that the Congress was ready to sit in Opposition if the BJP had the numbers. Today, in an interview with a channel, senior Congress leader Kamal Nath accepted that the Congress was slow to act in Goa and Manipur and better chalked-out plans were needed.

The Congress’ hara-kiri is evident from the fact that some of the newly elected Congress MLAs have blamed the senior Congress leaders of ‘indecisiveness’ even if it had the mandate to stake claim first, an unacceptable delay that gave the BJP enough time to play its cards. Congress Valopi MLA Vishwajit Rane, who is son of the former CM Pratapsingh Rane, felt so letdown that he left the party saying he was ‘disillusioned’ with the party after its ‘shameful handling of the mandate’.

MANIPUR

Manipur is the second state that is a missed opportunity for the Congress. Manipur Governor Najma Heptulla has invited the BJP leader N Biren Singh to form the government and his oath-taking ceremony is scheduled for tomorrow.

The Congress has been in power in the state since 2002 and even this time it emerged as the largest party winning 28 seats in the 60-member house. But the BJP’s performance is stunning here. The party that had not been able to open its account in the last polls in 2012, has emerged as the second largest party in this polls, winning 21 seats. But what is more remarkable is the fact that its vote share at 36.3% is more than Congress’ 35.1%, something that gives it the largest representation in the state. From 2.12% in 2012 to 36.3% in 2017, this is huge.

And thanks to the indecisiveness shown by the Congress here as well, the swift moves made by the BJP gave it the necessary edge and Imphal is going to have a BJP government next.

Both the BJP and the Congress are making claims and counterclaims. But certainly, the BJP has outsmarted the Congress in making first moves, be it parading the supporting MLAs before the Governor or holding joint presser with the National People’s Party (NPP). The Congress also claimed to have the NPP support but it was refuted by NPP chief Conrad Sangma.

In the 60-member strong Manipur legislative assembly, a simple house majority needs support of 31 MLAs. In a quick move, on March 12, the BJP approached the Governor with a delegation of MLAs including four NPP MLAs, lone MLA of the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), lone TMC MLA and a Congress MLA who had defected. The BJP delegation also handed over a letter of support from the Naga People’s Front (NPF), an NDA alliance partner.

After it, Manipur chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh, like waking from a slumber, rushed to the Governor House to stake claim. He showed a letter on a plain paper with names of four NPP legislators in Congress’ support which was later junked by the NPP. Also, it is believed that the Governor asked Ibobi Singh to parade the four NPP MLAs to validate his claims. Then there are reports that around a dozen Congress MLAs are ready to defect to the BJP fold.

Sources say the Governor wanted to meet the four NPF MLAs personally before taking any decision. Today, NPF MLAs met the Governor and reiterated their party’s support for the BJP. That validated the count of 32 MLAs in BJP’s support. After it, the Governor invited the BJP to form the government.

DESPERATE LAST DITCH EFFORTS

In its last ditch effort, the Congress had moved to the Supreme Court challenging the invitation to Manohar Parrikar to form the government. But if we go by the Constitution’s interpretation of experts, inviting the largest party is more of a convention and the Governor is not bound to follow it if another political formation convinces him of having the required numbers.

It is left to the Governor’s discretion and wisdom to ensure that a stable government is formed, be it by the single largest party or a coalition of other parties, a fact reiterated by the Supreme Court during today’s hearing. The top court said that though it has become a Constitutional convention to invite the single largest party, the preference goes to them who show stable numbers.

Rapidly changing political developments have proved Shashi Tharoor wrong. It is not the BJP, but the Congress that has lost two states, i.e., Manipur and Uttarakhand. And unlike the BJP which lost one in Punjab, to gain four states in its fold, it could gain just one, i.e., Punjab. With these developments, the BJP and its allies now have governments in 17 states while the Congress and its allies have shrunk to just seven states.

©SantoshChaubey

COMPLACENCY LIKELY TO COST CONGRESS TWO MORE STATES

On the counting day, after the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) massive victory in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand and impressive show in Uttarakhand, senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor had words of advice for the BJP leadership. He tweeted that the BJP was in power in two of the five states where elections were held and it lost both and therefore the party ‘shouldn’t be too complacent for 2019’ when the next parliamentary polls will be held.

But it seems, the Congress leadership got complacent with the poll results as it failed to move before the BJP in staking claims to form governments even if Amit Shah, the BJP president, had announced on the counting day that the BJP was going to form government in four states, i.e., Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur.

GOA

Even though Digvijay Singh, Goa in-charge of the Congress party, has been camping in Goa, the party failed to make its move and arrange numbers to stake claim.

While the Congress was still contemplating its moves, the BJP met Goa Governor Mridula Sinha with a list 21 MLAs to stake its claim to form the government in the state. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has resigned from the union cabinet. The Goa Governor has invited him to take oath tomorrow and prove majority in the Goa assembly in 15 days. He had resigned from the CM position in November 2014 to join Narendra Modi’s union cabinet. This will be his fourth term as Goa’s chief minister. His first two terms were from 2000 to 2002 and from 2002 to 2005.

The BJP, the incumbents in the state, won 13 assembly seats this time, four less than Congress’ 17. To prove majority in the 40-member Goa House, support of 21 members is needed. Congress needed four MLAs to scale the gap while the BJP needed eight. And the BJP arranged its eight before the Congress could garner support of four MLAs.

The BJP claims to have support of three MLAs each of the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) and the Goa Forward Party (GFP), two independents and lone NCP MLA. Then there are reports that some Congress MLAs are ready to defect to join the BJP. That the Congress has resigned to its fate becomes clear from the development where its Goa in-charge Digvijay Singh, who was claiming to form the government, was quoted saying that the Congress was ready to sit in Opposition if the BJP had the numbers.

The Congress’ hara-kiri here is evident from the fact that some of the newly elected Congress MLAs have the blamed the senior Congress leaders of ‘indecisiveness’ even if it had the mandate to stake the claim first, an unacceptable delay that gave the BJP enough time to play its cards. Congress Valopi MLA Vishwajit Rane, who is son of former CM Pratapsingh Rane, is feeling so disgusted that he had decided to leave the party saying he is ‘disillusioned’ with the party after its shameful handling of the mandate.

In its last ditch effort, the Congress has moved to the Supreme Court challenging the invitation to Manohar Parrikar to form the government and the Supreme Court has agreed for an emergency hearing tomorrow before Parrikar’s oath-taking ceremony at 5 PM. But the Constitution is silent on whether the Governor can call the second largest party or not in case of a hung assembly scenario and it is left of his discretion and wisdom to ensure that a stable government is formed, be it by the single largest party or a coalition of other parties.

MANIPUR

Manipur is the second state that is likely to slip from the Congress fold. The BJP legislature party has elected N Biren Singh as its leader and the party, along with its allies, are soon going to meet Najma Heptulla, the Manipur Governor, to stake claim to form the government.

The Congress has been in power in the state since 2002 and even this time it has emerged as the largest party winning 28 seats in the 60-member house. But the BJP’s performance is stunning here. The party that had not been able to open its account in the last polls in 2012, has emerged as the second largest party in this polls, winning 21 seats. But what is more remarkable is the fact that its vote share at 36.3% is more than Congress’ 35.1%, something that gives it the largest representation in the state. From 2.12% in 2012 to 36.3% in 2017, this is huge.

And thanks to the indecisiveness shown by the Congress here as well, the swift moves made by the BJP have created very real chances where Imphal could have a BJP government next.

Both the BJP and the Congress are making claims and counterclaims. But certainly, the BJP has outsmarted the Congress in making first moves, be it parading the supporting MLAs before the Governor or holding joint presser with the National People’s Party (NPP). Both, the BJP and the Congress, claim support of four NPP MLAs but Conrad Sangma, the NPP chief, has denied the Congress claims.

In the 60-member strong Manipur legislative assembly, a simple house majority needs support of 31 MLAs.

After the BJP met the Governor and paraded 32 MLAs yesterday, including four each of the Naga People’s Front (NPF) and the NPP, lone MLA of the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), lone TMC MLA and a Congress MLA who defected, Manipur chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh, like waking up from a slumber, rushed to the Governor House to stake claim. He showed a letter with names of four NPP legislators in Congress’ support. The BJP has dismissed the letter as it was not on official letterhead. The letter claim was later debunked by the NPP. Also, the BJP had held a joint press conference with the NPP before meeting the Governor and the NPP had announced that it would go with the anti-Congress grouping in the Manipur assembly.

To make matters worse for the Congress, it is believed that the Governor has asked Ibobi Singh to parade the four NPP MLAs before to validate his claims, something that looks an improbable task now after the BJP has firmed up numbers in its favour. Then there are reports that around a dozen Congress MLAs are ready to defect to the BJP fold.

Whether the Congress will move to the Supreme Court in the Manipur case depends on what respite it gets from the Supreme Court tomorrow with its Goa petition. If the Supreme Court puts a stay on Parrikar’s oath-taking ceremony, Manipur will also see a prolonged uncertainty till the apex court finally comes with a definitive interpretation. But if we go by the interpretation of the experts, inviting the largest party is more of a convention and the Governor is not bound to follow it if another political formation convinces him of having the required numbers.

©SantoshChaubey

WHY CONGRESS’ CLAIM OF VICTORY IN THREE STATES IS A POOR ATTEMPT TO HIDE BEHIND STATS

The Congress may have found a way to draw some solace from the assembly election verdicts announced yesterday which were like a massive tsunami of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s electoral victory. After yet another round of electoral humiliation, the grand old party of India is trying to put up a brave face by highlighting the fact that it won three of the five states where polls were held. The party has scored an impressive victory in Punjab and has emerged as the largest party in Goa and Manipur.

It says while it lost one state in Uttarakhand, it won one in Punjab, has dethroned the BJP in Goa and is looking to retain Manipur after it emerged as the largest party by winning 26 of the 60 assembly seats on offer. But the BJP has outdone the Congress even here, in staking claims to form the governments in Goa and Manipur.

When we go beyond these mere claims to look for elements to substantiate them, we found them as empty claims which are nothing lame attempts to hide behind data manipulation, both in terms of numbers of states that the party claims to win and the geographical extent and population under its rule in the country.

THE PARTY MAY END UP WITH JUST ONE STATE

The Congress party has won a clear and absolute majority in Punjab with 77 seats in the 117-member strong Punjab assembly and 38.5% vote share and is going to form the government there under Captain Amarinder Singh.

But that is not the case with Goa and Manipur where Amit Shah, the BJP president, had claimed yeaterday that his party would form the government. Though the Congress has emerged as the largest party in both states, it is still short of majority with hung verdicts in both states. And the developments so far say that both of these states may actually end up with the BJP.

GOA

While the Congress is still contemplating its moves, the BJP has met the Goa Governor to stake its claim to form the government in the state. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar will resign from the union cabinet to become Goa’s chief minister again. He had resigned from the position in November 2014 to join Narendra Modi’s union cabinet.

The BJP, the incumbents in the state, have won 13 assembly seats this time, four less than Congress’ 17. To prove majority in the 40-member Goa House, support of 21 members are needed. Congress needs four MLAs to scale the gap while the BJP needs eight. And it seems the BJP has arranged its eight before the Congress could garner support of four MLAs.

The BJP claims to have support of 22 MLAs including three MLAs each of the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) and the Goa Forward Party (GFP) and three independents. That the Congress has resigned to its fate becomes clear from the development where its Goa in-charge Digvijay Singh, who was claiming to form the government yesterday, was quoted saying today that the Congress was ready to sit in Opposition if the BJP had the numbers.

MANIPUR

Himanta Biswa Sarma, senior BJP leader and Assam minister just tweeted to inform us that the BJP is going to stake claim to form the government.

@himantabiswa
Meeting her Excellency Guv of #Manipur Smt Najma Heptullah ji to stake claim to form a @BJP4India led Govt in state. #MissionAccomplished

In the 60-member strong Manipur legislative assembly, the ruling Congress party has won 28 seats while the BJP is trailing at the second position with 21 seats. A simple house majority needs support of 31 MLAs.

Smaller parties like the Naga People’s Front (NPF) has won four seats, National People’s Party (NPP) has won another four seats and Lok Jan Shakti Party (LJP) has won one seat. All these are NDA constituents and have extended their support to the BJP in Manipur. The BJP is also claiming support of the lone independent MLA. That takes the tally of the BJP and its allies to 31, crossing the halfway majority mark in the Manipur assembly. Then there are reports that the lone All India Trinamool Congress (AITC) MLA is also supporting the BJP alliance and a Congress MLA has defected to the BJP camp.

So, in effect, based on the developments so far, the Congress has won just one states, i.e., Punjab, while losing two, i.e., Manipur and Uttarakhand.

SHRINKING AREA OF INFLUENCE

And even if we go by the Congress’ claim that it won three states, it will still add nothing significant to the spread of its influence – geographically as well as in terms of the human headcount. The Congress party has effectively lost the electoral space to act as a national alternative to the BJP.

The BJP and its allies were already ruling over 60% of India’s geographical area with 43% of its population before yesterday’s verdict and the sweep has taken it to around 70% of the landmass and 58% of the population. Even if we don’t count Goa and Manipur in BJP’s stable as of now, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand make BJP the ruling party of 15 Indian states while the Congress, that has ruled India for almost 55 years in its 70 years of independent, sovereign history, has shrunk to just five states with Karnataka as the only big state in its fold. The party has limited presence in another two states. The Congress has an alliance government in Puducherry while it is the junior-most alliance partner in Bihar’s ruling coalition.

In terms of the geographical spread, the Congress has shrunk to just 13% of Indian territory which houses the country’s 11% population. The BJP is now in all corners of the country, in north India, in central India, in south India, in West India, in east India and in north-east India, the footprint the Congress enjoyed earlier while the Congress has reduced to only few pockets.

If, in spite of all these bitter ground realities, the Congress leaders and spokespersons are still not ready to see the writing on the wall, no one can help in its revival to reclaim the past glory.

©SantoshChaubey

VERDICT 2017: ELECTORAL LANDSCAPE OF INDIA IS GOING TO BE BJP VS COALITIONS

The article originally appeared on India Today. 

Counting day trends of the five state assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur are now in. The way the electoral wind has blown has become clear in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Uttarakhand while it is still neck to neck contest in Goa and Manipur. As per the trends available so far, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), along with its allies, has won 325 seats in the 403-member Uttar Pradesh assembly, an overwhelming majority in the state’s electoral history, ending the party’s 15 year old political exile in the state. Home Minister Rajnath Singh was the BJP’s last chief minister in Uttar Pradesh in 2002. The party has repeated its emphatic show in Uttarakhand, winning 56 of the 70 assembly seats on offer. The Congress has taken Punjab with 76 seats in the 117-member Punjab assembly.

The verdict 2017 is going to write the electoral landscape of India for the next parliamentary polls in 2019, settling down the most important question of the representational camps in the state level and national politics.

And the message is loud clear.

It is going to be the coalitions Vs the BJP in the upcoming assembly polls that may finally culminate in a grand alliance taking on the ruling party in the Centre in the 2019 general elections. In 2018, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura are going to polls while ten states including Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha and Rajasthan have their state polls slated for 2019.

It is to be seen whether these coalitions will learn from the lessons of the experiments done in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. In spite of all the big projections, the BJP had to bite the dust in the 2015 Bihar assembly polls as it was a clear two way fight between the BJP led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and the grand political alliance of the Janata Dal United (JDU), the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Congress party that ensured that the anti-BJP votes did not split.

That could not happen in Uttar Pradesh.

While the BJP targeted non-Yadav OBC and non-Jatav Dalit votes, in addition to its traditional vote bank of upper castes and middle class, the triangular contest between the Samajwadi Party (SP)-Congress coalition, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the BJP led NDA saw the anti-BJP votes split between the SP-Congress coalition and the BSP. At the same time, the BJP was able to consolidate its pie riding high on the factors like the Modi wave and polarisation along religious and community lines.

In Bihar, two arch rivals, the JDU and the RJD, could bury their past differences to prevent the BJP juggernaut. Uttar Pradesh would have been a different story had it been for a grand alliance of parties say the SP-BSP-Congress and even Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD). Crisis of political survival may push these parties to come under one umbrella in future as we saw in the overtures of Akhilesh Yadav who offered to go along with the BSP to prevent the BJP’s sail in UP after the exit polls predicted a BJP victory or a hung assembly with the BJP as the largest party in the UP assembly.

The Congress party has effectively lost the electoral space to act as a national alternative to the BJP. The BJP and its allies were already ruling over 60% of India’s geographical area with 43% of its population before today’s verdict and the today’s sweep has taken it to around 70% of the land and 58% of the population. Even if we don’t count Goa and Manipur in BJP’s stable along with today’s results, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand make BJP the ruling party of 14 Indian states while the Congress, that has ruled India for almost 55 years in its 70 years of independent, sovereign history, has shrunk to just five states with Karnataka as the only big state in its fold. The Congress has an alliance government in Puducherry while it is the junior-most alliance partner in Bihar’s ruling coalition. And we should not forget that the states of Goa and Manipur are wide open till majority governments are formed there. When it comes to that, the state may well end up with the BJP.

Though the huge anti-incumbency against the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)-BJP combine has given Congress an emphatic victory in Punjab, the party has seen a humiliating loss in Uttarakhand where even its chief minister Harish Rawat could not save his assembly constituencies. To make Congress’ plight more visible, we have examples of Goa and Manipur. Congress claimed to win both of these states but the trends so far belie such claims. The north-eastern state of Manipur has been a traditional stronghold of the Congress party while it was expecting the anti-BJP incumbency to deliver Goa for it.

Manipur and Goa are small states, with 60 and 40 assembly seats respectively and the trends available so far say that it is a neck to neck fight between the BJP and the Congress in both of these states and the smaller parties and the independents will play the kingmaker in deciding who is going to form the government next. If the BJP has been able to form its government in Manipur, it will give the ruling party of India its second direct opening in the north-eastern region of India after Assam win in 2016.

If it happens so, the BJP will have presence in four of the eight north-eastern states, i.e., Assam, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland. After a series of dramatic upheavals, the BJP has its government in Arunachal Pradesh while Nagaland’s ruling Naga People’s Front (NPF) is its alliance partner. So another BJP advance in the region at the cost of the Congress will limit the Congress’ influence like the one of regional parties while will add one more, and necessary, feather in the BJP’s drive to become a true pan-India political party.

This BJP spread is a crisis moment for the Congress, the SP, the BSP and many other state and regional parties and it will write the way further for the electoral politics in India. The crisis will eventually force them to come together to take on the BJP might. The future electoral landscape of India is thus expected to be dotted by coalitions and more coalitions against the BJP, in the upcoming assembly polls and in the mega electoral show in 2019 when we will chose our next set of parliamentarians. And Congress will have no choice but to become part of such coalitions, accepting junior roles, like it did in Bihar, and like it has done in Uttar Pradesh.

©SantoshChaubey

TOMORROW WILL WRITE THE ELECTORAL LANDSCAPE OF INDIA FOR 2019

So, the day has finally arrived. In few hours, the Election Commission will begin the exercise that will write the electoral landscape of India for the next parliamentary polls in 2019. The most important question that it will settle down will be about representation in the national politics.

The counting of votes for the assembly polls conducted in five states, i.e., Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa, would be done tomorrow and by 12 PM, the trends will become more or less clear.

Anti-incumbency is expected to play the lead role in determining the poll outcome in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Uttarakhand, and even in Manipur.

Congress’ fall from grace, it seems, is yet to see its lowest point as evident by no visible anti-incumbency against the BJP government in Goa where Congress is the main political opposition. To make Congress’ plight more visible, we have before us Manipur, the North-Eastern state that may go to the BJP fold, giving the ruling party in Centre its first direct opening in the North-Easter region of India.

If it happens so, the BJP will have significant presence in three of the seven North-Eastern states, i.e., Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland. That will restrict Congress’ influence like the regional parties while will add one more (and necessary) feather in the BJP’s drive to become a true pan-India political party.

And that will write the way further in the electoral politics in India. It will be dotted by coalitions and more coalitions against the BJP, in assembly polls that will lead us to the mega electoral show in 2019 when we will chose our next set of parliamentarians. And Congress will have no choice but to become part of such coalitions, accepting junior roles, like it did in Bihar, and like it has done in Uttar Pradesh.

©SantoshChaubey

WHO IS ZAW HTAY?

Well, who is Zaw Htay.

It is a Burmese name but there is no Wikipedia page available on it on first page of Google search with related thread. The first link that returns with the search is of some doctor of the same name.

Anyway, the Zaw Htay I was looking for, is a very important person in Myanmar. He is the director of the office of the President of Myanmar.

And he has become important for India as well after yesterday’s development.  Before that, he was virtually unknown in India except in concerned diplomatic circles.

Foreign media publications like The Wall Street Journal and Foreign Policy reported that India did enter in Myanmar’s territory to carry out surgical attacks on terrorists camps operating in India’s North-East from from Myanmar’s soil. The successful covert operation is being seen as a bold (with many firsts) retaliatory response to the June 4 Chandel attack by terrorists in Manipur that had left 18 soldiers dead.

The Wall Street Journal wrote: “Zaw Htay, director of the office of Myanmar President Thein Sein, confirmed Wednesday that Indian troops had entered his country. He said that there was “coordination and cooperation” between the Indian troops and Myanmar’s armed forces based in the area of the raids, but added that no Myanmar soldiers were directly involved. “We will never allow or support insurgents, whether [they are] against Myanmar or against our neighboring countries,” Mr. Zaw Htay added.”
(June 10, around 3 PM)

Foreign Policy wrote: “Director of the office of Myanmar President Thein Sein Zaw Htay, confirmed on Wednesday that Indian troops had entered his country’s border. He said that there was “coordination and cooperation” between authorities but no Myanmar soldiers were directly involved.”
(June 10, around 6:30 PM, as Google search reflected it)

But by the late evening, contradictory reports emerged, based on ‘his Facebook post’ that denied Indian Army’s entry in Myanmar’s territory. Similar reports said: “In a Facebook post Wednesday Zaw Htay, director of Myanmar’s presidential office, said: “According to the information sent by Tatmadaw (Myanmar army) battalions on the ground, we have learned that the military operation was performed on the Indian side at India-Myanmar border,” he said. “Myanmar will not accept any foreigner who attacks neighbouring countries in the back and creates problems by using our own territory,” he added.”

Most reports quoted (and are quoting) AFP story and The Strait Times published it at around 7 PM. Soon, others picked it up.

Now, even if the Indian Army has avoided mentioning ‘entering in Myanmarese territory’ in its official release, the political class is busy in taking credits (with the resultant blame game).

This contradiction will only intensify it. The situation has exacerbated ‘after contradictory reports on statements of Mr. Zaw Htay.

And only Mr. Htay or any representative of the Myanmar government can clarify it. Meanwhile, I tried but could not locate Mr. Htay ‘Facebook post’.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

INSURGENCY IN NORTH-EAST AND THE ‘LOCAL’ ELEMENT

They tried to do it again. And they tried to do it in Tirap again.

A group of some 40 terrorists, suspected to be from NSCN(K), attacked the camp of Assam Rifles in Tirap district in Andhra Pradesh.

Since there was prior intelligence this time, terrorists fire saw retaliatory attack by the personnel of the paramilitary force mandated to guard the India-Myanmar border.

No casualty was reported in exchange of fire that lasted for 10 minutes.

In an earlier incident in the district on April 2, NSCN(K) had ambushed an Army convoy (4 Rajput Regiment) killing 3 soldiers. It was around 6 AM.

Alertness and prior intelligence is natural in these tense circumstances. Just three days ago, in the deadliest attack on the Indian Army in the Northeast India, terrorists killed 18 soldiers of the 6 Dogra Regiment. NSCN(K), ULFA (I) and KYKL among others are being said to be behind this cowardly attack on the road-opening patrol that was not fully prepared to take on militants.

But that is a mistake or laxity or ‘intelligence failure’ that the Indian security establishment cannot afford in crisis-hit regions like J&K or in different states of the North-East.

The incident happened even if the Indian security establishment knew that the Khaplang faction of NSCN would try to hit targets in quick succession to prove its relevance after it broke the ceasefire in March 2015.

The intelligence establishment, with its multiple agencies, including the Indian Army and local police, expected attacks to happen, yet they could not see what was coming on June 4 in the Chandel district.

Like today’s incident in the Tirap district, involving a large group of terrorists (as is being reported), Chandel attack, too, involved a large group. Like Chandel, Tirap, too, is a district bordering Myanmar. In Chandel, it was around 6 AM, according to NSCN(K), the outfit which took responsibility of the attack. In Tirap, it was at 2:30 AM.

So, the terrorists want to attack those units of Indian security establishment, including its Army and paramilitary forces, which they find not equipped enough to retaliate – like it was a road-opening-patrol in Chandel – like it was at 2:30 AM at Assam Rifles camp in a remote area of Tirap.

If this sort of ‘hit and run’ is going to be the strategy of many groups of the North-East, including NSCN(K), intelligence agencies are going to face an even more difficult job at hand to thwart such attacks.

Going by the developments, it is quite sure that the intelligence agencies are not getting local support or are not able to exploit the means at this end.

India-Myanmar border is 15 Kms from the place where Chandel attack took place. Even if it was very near to the Myanmar border, crossing the border undetected after perpetrating such a deadly attack would be impossible for such a large group without local support. It holds true even in case the group members scattered here and there and crossed the border in small units or individually or even if they stayed back in the Indian territory, mixed among the villagers.

And today’s attack in Tirap holds same ‘intelligence’ logic. Assam Rifles guard the India-Myanmar border but they could not gauge from where the terrorists came and to where they fled away after opening fire. At least, that information is not in the public domain so far. Though Assam Rifles had intelligence about an upcoming attack, they could not trace out such a large group. But if they could escape as it was dark, it was not possible without the local support – the rapid movement of such a large group after a retaliatory attack.

And such ‘intelligence failures’ owing to the ‘non-cooperation of the local people’ in many North-East states give rise to various debates including Delhi’s negligence of the entire territory, shabby state of development and poor infrastructure and the imposition of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).

When I wrote in an article on June 4 attack that we needed to see ‘it is to be seen how the government of India moves next morning’, it was basically about addressing this ‘local’ element – to come to the board and to chalk a roadmap for a permanent solution.

A thorough preparedness, being alert round the clock, and a more intense intelligence gathering mechanism can thwart the possibility of damage in such attacks. Yes, but it cannot thwart the possibility of such attacks.

That needs comprehensive sanitization of the affected areas by the Indian security establishment. But that cannot happen without local support.

And we cannot trust on the government in Myanmar. Terrorist groups active in the North-East operate from Myanmar. The government there has not enough means, political and military, to take on these outfits and the government was forced to sign an agreement with S. S. Khaplang.

Such groups also get vital Chinese support which has interests in the promoting insurgency in the North-East with its claim on Arunachal Pradesh.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

WHAT HAPPENED IN CHANDEL WAS WAITING TO HAPPEN..

It can be said there were enough indications that Northeast India was going to see a big terror strike soon. And it happened today.

In an ambush, 18 Indian soldiers were killed and 11 were injured in Manipur in Chandel district that shares border with Myanmar. First, a powerful blast hit the 6 Dogra Regiment of the Indian Army. Then came the barrage of grenades and bullets. It is impossible to look at the charred bodies and the overall gory scene at the ambush spot.

Spike in terror related incidents was expected after NSCN(K) broke the ceasefire agreement, that was in place for last so many years years, in March 2015. S. S. Khaplang, its chairman, who hails from Myanmar, played key role in organizing terror outfits of the reason. A meeting was held in Myanmar this April and nine terror groups united under the umbrella of ‘United National Liberation Front of West South East Asia’. Many terror groups of Northeast India call the region ‘West South East Asia’ and claim to fight the Indian government to liberate it.

Ever since NSCK(K) broke the ceasefire agreement, it has kept fuelling the anti-India stand with its terror acts. Since then, it is actively involved in ambushing and killing the Indian security forces personnel.

The terror outfit killed three and injured three others on April 2. It was in Arunachal Pradesh’s Tirap district.

Eight personnel of Assam Rifles were killed and six others were injured on May 3. It was in Nagaland’s Mon district.

18 personnel of the Indian Army were killed and 11 others were injured on June 4. The incident took place in Manipur’s Chandel district.

The imprints are clear – Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Manipur.

Next could be Tripura which recently removed Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from the state after being in force for 18 years.

According to the information available from SATP, 23 security personnel were killed in the entire northeast region in 2014. This year, including today’s incident, the figure has already reached to an alarming 41 security personnel killed in terror strikes. The figure is highest since 2008 and seven months are still to go.

India is the world’s fastest growing economy now. It is among the largest economies of the world. Narendra Modi’s foreign policy has gained a positive imagery for India across the world. It is being recognized, not only for its economic advantages, but also for its strategic strengths.

But it cannot be recognized a true military power in league with the strong nations until it handles the insurgency on its own. It has strong defence capabilities. Its Army, Air Force and Navy – all are known for their respective might. Its paramilitary are considered efficient and work in some of the most hostile parts of the world.

But the country’s might cannot and should not be recognized globally until such incidents keep on happening in any part of India including its northeast states and Jammu and Kashmir.

Let’s see what happens tomorrow and thereafter in the wake on this and other similar incidents. India needs to go beyond issuing routine statements on such incidents. Tough decisions are overdue. Yes, there will be collateral damage that should strive to minimize.

We know Myanmar has training camps of many terrorist groups of the region. Its Sagaing division, where the April meeting was held, serves as their hideout and headquarter. Indian intelligence agencies routinely pass such information to the concerned establishment in India. They continuously warn of Chinese efforts to prop up terrorist outfits of the northeast region. Instability in the region is good for China and its Arunachal Pradesh claims.

We cannot be seen as a strong nation until we pressure Myanmar to remove terror groups operating in Indian territory from Myanmarese soil.

The Indian Army is engaged in combing operation of the area to flush out terrorists. The Myanmar border has been sealed.

Next morning will tell us how Narendra Modi is going to handle the biggest terrorist incident of his time as the prime minister of the world’s largest democracy that he aspires to make a strong, front league nation.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/