A month ago, both the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress were struggling with the political situation in two states where they were the governing party. In Uttar Pradesh, the management of the second wave triggered criticism of chief minister (CM) Yogi Adityanath; there was also criticism of his governance style and alleged patronage to certain castes. The BJP national leadership let the controversy play out, uncharacteristically, in public view. But eventually, it backed Mr Adityanath’s continuation as CM while making some adjustments, both at the central and state level, to accommodate leaders of other castes. With this, it hopes to tap into both the incumbency vote (in favour of the CM) as well as the vote of the discontented (who may be disenchanted with the CM but have faith in the prime minister).
In Punjab, the acrimonious battle between CM Captain Amarinder Singh and rebel Navjot Singh Sidhu played out, with the national leadership allowing Mr Sidhu to undermine the CM. Eventually, a power-sharing formula was imposed with Mr Sidhu appointed as party chief. With this, the Congress too hopes to tap into both the pro-incumbency vote (of supporters of Captain Singh) and the anti-incumbency vote (with Mr Sidhu doubling up both as party chief but also chief dissenter against the state government). While the context is different, the BJP’s formula is cleaner to execute — back the CM, while ensuring the PM is seen as above the fray. The Congress’s formula is harder to execute — since the CM has to deal with an official rival in the same party structure.
But both national parties have turned their focus now to two other states. For the BJP, it appears a transition in Karnataka is imminent, withBS Yediyurappa being asked to make way for another leader as CM. The veteran Karnataka leader has an autonomous base, especially within the Lingayat community, and cannot be brushed aside easily. How his possible exit impacts the party’s fortunes in the south is to be seen. For the Congress, the next challenge is Rajasthan, where Sachin Pilot has been waiting for promises to be implemented. The party leadership is now seeking to ensure the accommodating of his loyalists in the state power structure, but whether Mr Pilot’s rival, CM Ashok Gehlot, will allow this remains unclear. From UP to Punjab, Karnataka to Rajasthan, both national parties are attempting to manage state units with an eye on the next election and generational transition, while ensuring Delhi’s writ runs.
Mirabai Chanu’s silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics was not unexpected, but it was a joyous moment when it happened nonetheless. Chanu, who comes from a farming village near Imphal, has been one of the world’s best weightlifters in her category, 49kg, for some time now. She has won a world championship and holds the world record in one of the Olympics lifts, the clean & jerk. The Olympic silver simply adds to the aura and signals, yet again, the pioneering path forged by athletes from Manipur.
Kunjarani Devi, the woman who inspired Chanu, was India’s first medallist at the world weightlifting championship. She won a silver in 1989, at a time when being a woman weightlifter in India was almost unheard of. Devi inspired, and continues to inspire, generations of aspiring athletes to take up the sport in India. MC Mary Kom did the same with boxing — opening the way for women to get into a fighting sport and dream of big medals. Six world titles and an Olympic medal later, she is still fighting, in Tokyo. From the late Dingko Singh to Sarita Devi, and an assembly line of hockey and football players, Manipur has an outsized influence on the Indian sporting scene.
Much of that has to do with the love for sport and the sporting culture of the state. Yet, Manipur’s sporting infrastructure is below par, even compared to the usual less-than-ideal standards everywhere in India. Some states have, in the past decade, started to tap into sporting culture and encourage its development. Haryana has done that with boxing and wrestling at the grassroots. Odisha has done so with hockey and athletics and built world class infrastructure. Karnataka has some of the finest sporting institutes in India now. Manipur would do well to embrace its unique sporting identity and nurture it in a truly ambitious manner.