As a part of Imphal Free Press initiative on The Idea of Manipur, we bring you an exclusive interview of M Asnikumar Singh, Vice President, BJP, Manipur Pradesh.
Asnikumar describes himself as a man “on a mission to visualise a New Manipur.” He was one of the prominent party leaders who popularised the BJP agenda and charted the BJP-led government to power in 2017.
IFP: What is your vision for a New Manipur?
Asnikumar: I strongly believe in the idea of Manipur. The idea for a new Manipur should be clearly visualised towards peace, prosperity and well being of the last man in the queue living in our society on the inherent values of Antyodaya. For me, the idea for a new Manipur means hills and valley united as one by strengthening the common thread of universal oneness and mutual respect.
IFP: Do you think the relation between New Delhi and Manipur has improved after about five and half years of BJP-led rule at the Centre?
Asnikumar: The transition from ‘Look East’ to ‘Act East’ which is the vision of our beloved Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has successfully bridged the gap between Delhi and Northeast, including Manipur. Under the spirit of team India as conceptualized by Modiji, engagements and activities between the Centre and state governments have been significantly increased. Earlier, the presence of central leaders in the state was minimal but now you see after every two or three weeks a minister from the central government will be in Imphal to take stock of the developmental activities being carried out by their ministries in the state. This not only bridges the gap but also brings about transparency in the system. You would be surprised to know that the in-charge for party affairs in Manipur who was inducted in the Modi cabinet, Prahlad Patel himself has made two government visits in the recent past – first during the Third Shirui Lily Festival in Ukhrul and the other for the 8th International Tourism Mart in Imphal.
IFP: How important is ideology to the BJP?
Asnikumar: The binding force of our party is the ideology with which every BJP karyakarta works. It is this ideology of ‘oneness’ that inspires every karyakarta to perform his duties in the right way. There’s a lot of confusion, probably I would say misconception that BJP follows the ideology of Supremacy of Hindutva Politics. But I would like to make a strong point here that it is nothing else but ‘Universal Oneness’ which comes out to be the ultimate ideology of our party, for our karyakartas the only dharma is to work for the poorest of the poor and weakest of the weak and for us following our ideology goes beyond the concept of competitive politics.
IFP: As a political party, what is the foundation of BJP?
Asnikumar: Bharatiya Janata Party, which has its roots to the erstwhile Jana Sangh, is the largest political party in the world with the most important fact being that it’s a cadre-based party. Unlike other political parties in our country which are mostly remote controlled or are completely based on dynastic control, BJP comes out to be the only political party which has no place for family interference or involvement in any manner. For us, as mentioned earlier, what matters the most is our ideology and principle. I don’t need to exemplify, there is no place for family interference in our party. It is purely a cadre -based party which believes in giving the ultimate power and freedom to the last mandal in our setup.
IFP: How is your party linked to the RSS?
Asnikumar: RSS is the world’s largest voluntary organisation whereas BJP with its recent enrolment has come out as the world’s largest political party. They are completely two different entities working for the prosperity and stability of this nation without interfering in each other’s activities. The only common link that both the organisations share is the ideology and principle according to which they work. It is true that many people from the RSS have joined BJP in the recent times, for example our Northeast in-charge Ram Madhav and organisation secretary, Ajay Jamwal. This purely strengthens the organisation of the party at all levels. The very foundation of any political party is its organisation which keeps its structure intact and people united. For karyakartas like us working in BJP and taking inspiration from the principles laid by RSS provides us with a systematic and a disciplined pathway to carry out our day to day activities.
IFP: How do you see the rise of BJP in Manipur?
Asnikumar: I find myself fortunate enough to have witnessed this growth story of BJP from 2012 when it badly suffered defeat in the assembly elections till today, when we have a BJP-led government in the State, of course with our partners in the government. This complete journey is full of interesting stories and a lot of sacrifices that many karyakartas including me had to do. I still remember when Narendra Modi ji was declared as the Prime Ministerial candidate, I and Chaoba Singh who were then General Secretary and President of the party’s state unit respectively were invited by Modi ji’s office to come to Gujarat to discuss the issues related to Manipur and its people, prior to his first election campaign in Manipur as Prime Ministerial candidate. It turned out to be a historic rally after which we were sure that this will set the tone for a paradigm shift in Manipur. BJP’s vote share percentage in the state assembly election, 2012 was just 2.12% whereas Congress had 42.42% and in 2017, BJP stands with highest vote share of 36.3% and Congress with 35.1 %. This whole journey has been full of emotions and sentiments and I strongly believe that this achievement should also be attributed to many karyakartas who have sacrificed their lives in order to keep the party growing through hard times.
IFP: On Citizen Amendment Bill 2019 and Government of India-NSCN (IM) deal, could you throw some light on these two issues?
Asnikumar: Definitely a lot of important issues with respect to national security and state’s interests are on the table. One thing is for sure that the central leadership will and have always ensured that all negotiations take place through a comprehensive dialogue process. At this crucial juncture, we should ensure that peace and normalcy is maintained at all times as responsible people of this great State. Commitment of our leaders including Prime Minister Modiji and Home Minister and our party’s national president Amit Shahji won’t go in vain as proven by the assurance in parliament by the Union Home Minister that our state will come under the Inner Line Permit System, which means that the Citizenship Amendment Bill, if passed, will not be applicable to Manipur.
IFP: Any comment on infighting within the BJP state unit.
Asnikumar: BJP is one big parivaar, differences in thoughts and actions is a natural thing in a parivaar (family) but at the end of the day it is the ideology (like the mother of the family) which binds us together and reminds us of our duties as a party karyakarta and let me tell you one thing very clearly “ a karyakarta of BJP is trained not only to work in the party interests but primarily to establish a greater and stronger bond among every Indian, for us nation comes before party and party comes before self”.
IFP: How do you assess the performance of the present state government and its ministers?
Asnikumar: I appreciate the government under the leadership of N Biren Singh, for taking measures in the right direction and with the right intention, ministers who are handling various important departments have always ensured that they come up with innovative ideas and schemes which are people centric. They are trying their best to take updates on the impending issues related to their departments. This indicates the level of seriousness and devotion with which they work. Officials are working day and night to establish a greater amount of peace and stability in the State.
Even on narcotic drugs and psychotropic substance use, the BJP and our government’s commitment is crystal clear. No compromise should be made on narcotic drugs and government should take serious action against everybody involved in the business of ruining our youths, our future pillars. I strongly believe that law enforcement agencies are doing their duty diligently. I appreciate the seizure of narcotic drugs worth hundreds of crore of rupees and not sparing whoever he or she may be if found involved in such activities.
IFP: People of the state are expecting a double engine growth after a BJP-led government has been installed in Manipur while your party-led government is at the Centre. However, the expected outcome is yet to be seen. Why is it so?
Asnikumar: The past Congress regime in Manipur has kept a liability of more than Rs. 9000 crore of which financial debt interest bearing is more than Rs. 70 crore per month. In addition to that, thousands of employees have been recruited just before the last state assembly election as a political gimmick. This has aggravated the financial problem of the State. In spite of all these dismal financial health, the BJP-led government in the state has come up with innovative people friendly welfare schemes like Chief Ministergi Hakshelgi Tengbang. Go to Village mission has given a new taste of government at the doorsteps of the people. Communal harmony has achieved a new height with new infrastructure development in the hill areas of the State. Revenue collection is highest during our party-led government in Manipur. Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) growth is all time high. Economic growth is 8 percent in the financial year 2017-18 which was kept at 4 percent in 2016-17, the last financial year of the Congress regime in Manipur. Still our government is trying to improve the financial health of the State. Ours is just 32 month old government with unbearable financial liability from the past Congress regime. Development trajectory is coming gradually. Let’s hope, the development pace runs faster with peaceful environment.
IFP: Your party organisational election is going on, any expectation?
Asnikumar: It is a routine affair of the party. Expectations and hopes have no place in our party, for us what matters most is responsibility and just delivery.
IFP: Lastly, any message you would like to give it to the people of Manipur.
Asnikumar: My only appeal for the people of my State is to keep showering their valuable trust on Modi ji and Amit Shah ji. Since the day they have taken oath of offices, they have not rested for a single day, taking inspiration from the Prime Minister, a person who has completely devoted his life for the service of the citizens of this motherland, I would like to appeal not as a BJP representative but just as a fellow responsible citizen of this great country that we should keep trust in our leaders and they will take our State to new heights.