Mischief managed: On Manipur politics : The Hindu Editorial

The BJP has retained Manipur after another round of defections, but instability reigns
After winning the sole seat in the Rajya Sabha elections in Manipur by a slender margin on June 19, and through dubious means, and following the return of the NPP’s legislators to the ruling coalition’s fold, the BJP-led government has managed to stave off the crisis that threatened its survival. But fresh rumblings from other legislators, from both the BJP and its coalition partner, the NPF over the NPP’s legislators retaining cabinet berths, suggest that a smooth sailing for the N. Biren Singh-led regime is far from guaranteed. This was not unexpected. The government in Manipur came to power despite the BJP winning only 21 of the 60 Assembly seats, seven short of the Congress’s 28. It managed to manufacture a majority by orchestrating a defection of a Congress MLA who escaped any disciplinary action by the Speaker for three years before the Supreme Court weighed in on the matter. The MLA has, since March 2020, been disqualified but there were seven more defections from the Congress-fold too from earlier before the NPP suddenly withdrew support and three MLAs from the BJP crossed over. The Speaker saw it fit only to take selective action against the defectors in a way that did not upset the ruling coalition’s apple cart during the Rajya Sabha polls. These Machiavellian manoeuvres, besides the BJP’s other advantages — power at the Centre and control over most States in the North-east — have helped it stave off the attempt by the Congress to push for a no-confidence motion. But these episodes only shine further light on the whimsical nature of political allegiance in the northeastern State.

It is always difficult for disparate political forces to come together in the case of hung Assemblies or Parliament. Forming a post-poll coalition that is not based simply on a division of the loaves of power requires parties to come to a programmatic understanding on governance priorities. The “common minimum programme” method which sometimes results in parties resorting to brinkmanship on issues has been criticised in the past for rendering coalitions unwieldy. But this allows for a battle of wits between different outfits in the same alliance while reflecting the electoral mandate more truly, and is therefore a principled form of coalition building. Alliances such as the one in Manipur now are built less on principle and more on accommodating various interests with carrots such as ministerial berths. The BJP, the NPP, the NPF, besides independents who have constituted the ruling coalition have not relied upon any programmatic understanding. The unseemly to-and-fro movement of legislators from both the ruling coalition and the Opposition is just an outcome of this form of alliance building. Disgruntlement over ministerial positions when cabinet strength is limited to a maximum of 12 berths is inevitable. When power is the only glue, mass defections that can change governments will be commonplace.

Courtesy - The  Hindu.
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