The Opposition’s stated objective of moving a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government was to force him to speak on the ongoing ethnic violence in Manipur. Speak, he did, and he promised to work for peace and reconciliation in the strife-torn State. The edge of Mr. Modi’s speech on Thursday, however, was against the Opposition that walked out before the House rejected the motion through a voice vote. During the debate, Home Minister Amit Shah offered a more detailed exposition of the government’s approach towards the conflict and the situation in Manipur. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Centre are unambiguous in their defence of Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren Singh. Mr. Shah noted that the fresh influx of refugees in recent years from Myanmar into Manipur and Mizoram has aggravated the age-old ethnic rivalry between the Meities and the Kukis. He also underscored the heightened security measures that are being implemented to manage the foreign population and contain the ethnic conflict. He said the Chief Minister had been cooperating with the Centre, and that the situation did not call for his dismissal or the imposition of President’s Rule. Mr. Shah appealed to the two warring communities, the Meiteis and the Kukis, to enter into a dialogue with each other and with the Centre. He should follow up on that appeal, and both communities should take it as a shot at peace.
If Manipur is stained by bloodshed, India’s national politics is stifled by the bad blood between the government and the Opposition. The debate on the no-confidence motion lacked wisdom and wit, but had plenty of rancour and diatribe as both sides tried to score petty points. The alternative vision that the Opposition claims to represent for India ahead of the 2024 election did not shine through the debate, if that was an aim at all. The ruling BJP, meanwhile, continued to weaponise rules and norms to mute the Opposition, and railroaded legislative business. The Leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, has been suspended until the Privileges Committee takes a decision about his alleged unruly conduct in the House. This decision keeps the leader of the principal Opposition party away from Parliament for an indefinite period. National politics has come to resemble an irreconcilable war. Political parties should not imitate the conflict in Manipur; dissent and protest are intrinsic to a democratic polity, but empty rhetoric and stubborn indifference are not.