The blame game has begun

By Albert Thyrniang

The BJP national vice president in charge of BJP Meghalaya, M Chuba Ao triggered a controversy by branding the ‘regional parties with national outlook’ with ‘begging bowls’ in Delhi. The remark evoked wide reactions from the state’s political circles. The Chief Minister and NPP chief, Conrad Sangma slammed the saffron leader for targeting his party and the leaders in the MDA government, deeming Ao’s observation demeaning to the state. The “insult” prompted UDP general secretary, Jemino Mawthoh to ask the BJP to walk out of the coalition if it thinks its government at the centre fills up the bowls of regional parties. PDF president, Banteidor Lyngdoh, while coming down heavily on the ‘unacceptable’ language states that approaching the Centre is not begging. The Opposition Congress too condemned the ‘begging bowl’ statement.
The statement of the BJP national vice-president is political. The state is already in election mode. Ao is only campaigning for the BJP. A paraphrase of the comment of the saffron worker reads, “The NPP (regional party with a national outlook), the UDP, PDF, HSPDP are in power. They only approach the BJP government in the national capital for funds. Hence in 2023 it makes sense to vote the BJP so that intermediaries are side-lined. We will provide the funds ourselves.’ The political statement, however, has truth. The chief minister himself acknowledges that majority of the state funds come the Centre. The very reason the NPP, UDP, PDF and others aligned with the BJP in 2018 is for funds. On several occasions the chief minister justified his rapport with the BJP, seen as anti-Christian and anti-minorities, in the name of ‘funds’ for the state. He defended the inclusion of the BJP in his government in order to avail of central funds. He explained his cosy relationship with the prime minister, Narendra Modi, union home minister, Amit Shah and Assam chief minister, Himanta Biswa Sarma in the interests of the state. About a month ago, the chief minister eulogised the BJP leaders and said they are interested in the welfare of minorities, especially Christians. He closes his mind on anti-conversion laws aimed at Christians, the anti-minority CAA, the abolition of article 370 that targets a particular community and the statements of Himanta Biswa Sarma that Muslims, Christians and others have their roots in Hinduism. One is not sure of others, but tribals certainly have no ancestries in Hinduism.
Having befriended the ‘nationalist’ and ‘communal’ party by sacrificing the ideology of his party for ‘financial’ reasons there is no point in crying foul against the ‘begging bowl,’ comment. Having ‘begged’ Delhi the state government has to account for implementation of central projects. As the Assembly elections approach, the BJP will attack MDA government more on central funds. The blame game has just begun among partners with no one taking responsibility for failure. Deputy chief minister, Prestone Tynsong has already directed the ‘young’ BJP Meghalaya in charge to go for training, perhaps to MATI as he advised TUR leader Angela Rangad, for allegedly speaking nonsense.
While it has fired the ‘begging bowl’ salvo, it is actually the BJP which has made the regional parties ‘beggars’ in exchange for aligning with it. In the North East the BJP achieved its mission of ‘Congress-mukt’ because the ruling party in Delhi promised ‘development’ (funds) for the region to regional parties. The regional parties fell to the BJP propaganda that it would usher in unprecedented development and that unlimited funds would flow ceaselessly to the eight states. The North-East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) was formed to unite regional parties against the Congress. The BJP roped in the Asom Gana Parishad, the Bodoland People’s Front, the Naga People’s Front, the Sikkim Democratic Front and the People’s Party of Arunachal, and lest we forget, the NPP and UDP from Meghalaya to promote the ‘interest’ of North East. These parties ignored and are still overlooking the ideology of the BJP for the cause Ao stated.
The BJP subscribes to the ideology of Hindutva. Recently, Congress leader Salman Khurshid compared Hindutva with Islamic terror outfits. The Hindutva outfits protested but ended up confirming exactly what Khurshid has written in his new book, “Sunrise over Ayodhya,” by vandalising his house and setting it on fire. Who would be so intolerant as to resort to violence? Only extremists would do it. The likes of NPP, UDP and PDF have helped the BJP in Meghalaya by embracing it as a partner in 2018. The rationale was the fund appeal. In 2023 the BJP might be a bigger mate and might gradually overtake the ‘regional party with a national outlook’ and the other ‘pucca’ regional entities. They had opted for the friendship model and conveniently forgotten that funds to the states cannot be stopped on the basis of political rivalry. This is a constitutional provision. So the TMC in West Bengal, the Congress in Rajasthan and other states, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and National Conference in Jammu and Kashmir during the 370 era, obtain funds from the centre although they oppose the BJP, ideologically.
However, since the BJP government dispenses the funds it is within its rights to demand that the money is put to good use. It is only natural for the masters to say, ‘those who beg don’t know how to utilise the resources we provide and therefore let us govern directly.’ The NPP, UDP, PDF are/will be responsible for the advancement of the Hindutva ideology in the state under the guise of ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas, Sabka Prayaas’. They have themselves to blame. Worse, if enlightened, the voters might blame them for the same.
The BJP is under an illusion that ‘fund attraction’ would make it a bigger player post 2023. The party is desperate for not making headway in Meghalaya. Since its entry into state politics in the early 1990s, the party bagged three seats only in 1998. The party has two MLAs at present who are regular turncoats. It has failed to groom any local leader on its own. The ideology of the ‘Hindi Belt’ party has repulsive effects in these hills. Indications point to a reduced tally in 2023. The best the ‘country’s largest’ party can do is to ‘sheep steal’ from its most hated rival, the Congress and the ‘beggars’ NPP and regional parties. On its own it has nothing to showcase. The constant tall assertion of Congress and other party men rushing in to contest under the Lotus symbol in the next elections might come to naught.
Keeping an eye on other parties is not limited to the BJP. Others too are ‘other’ oriented. It is pathetic that parties have reduced their activities to poaching. It amply manifests their weakness. It abundantly demonstrates that they can’t rely on their strength. It means they have not worked hard to build their bases. The best option is to win via the short cut way. The smartest trick is to succeed is by breaking others.
M Chuba Ao hails from Nagaland. More than Meghalaya the BJP is a key ally in the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party-led government in that state. In June last year the governor, RN Ravi, out of frustration due to the sorry state of affairs, shot off a letter to Neiphiu Rio, reminding the chief minister of the “siphoning off a large chunk of government funds meant for development” to armed gangs who run their own ‘governments’. The four-page letter alleged that several national highways projects (funded by the Centre) are stalled if 5-7% of the project cost is not given to armed groups who kidnap and assault project engineers if there was a delay. The governor narrates the grim reality, “They have informed that construction company officials are summoned to the Dimapur offices of the armed gangs for payments and negotiations…Sometimes these unlawful activities [take place] in the presence of senior officials of the State government including the Chief Secretary, Home Commissioner and the DGP.”
What has Ao to say on this brazen misuse of central funds in Nagaland? Will he raise his voice in his home state too? He resides in Dimapur where the offices of the ‘armed gangs’ operates with impunity. As a partner, the BJP too is responsible for the central funds ending up in the kitty of extortionists. The BJP is certainly aware of this criminal activity. But it is silent on the issue. It has not insisted on taking the Rio government to task. It has not demanded action against top state government officials who officially oblige the ‘gangs.’ The central government and the investigating agencies, who allegedly target mainly political opponents, are surely in the know of the blatant ‘diversion’ of central funds. Why trumpet the unproven improper implementation of central projects in Meghalaya? In Meghalaya too the BJP can direct the agencies to scrutinise the centrally sanctioned projects. Nothing of this sort will happen. Ao’s utterance is only part of the ugly politics as the state gears towards 2023.
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