Even though the Manipur Assembly elections were marred with violence, the state recorded one of the largest voter turnouts in the country this year. A whopping 84% of the electorate came out to vote during the first phase of polling on March 4, and 86% during the second phase on March 8. The Congress has ruled the state for the past 15 years – three straight terms. However, this year, it faces a tough fight from the Bharatiya Janata Party, which formed its second government in a northeastern state, Assam, with a landslide win in 2016.
While an economic blockade dominated voter emotions, its trigger – the bifurcation of seven districts for “administrative convenience”, and widespread violence were also deciding factors. Even though 280 companies of central paramilitary forces and state armed forces were deployed around the state, several people got injured in explosions and clashes that broke out during the run-up to the elections and carried on till as late as March 9 during re-polling.
In the fray
The Congress says it is looking to increase its margin of victory from 2012. However, the instability in the state because of the economic blockade, which started on November 1, 2016, has dealt a severe blow to the Ibobi Singh government. The BJP has utilised the opportunity to accuse the Congress government of administrative failure. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has promised the people of the state that an economic blockade will never happen under a BJP government. The saffron party has also drained considerable strength from the Congress camp, with six senior leaders switching sides in the past six months.
One of the major districts to watch out for is Thoubal – Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh’s bastion. He has won every election from the district since 2002. This time, Singh is being challenged by civil rights activist Irom Chanu Sharmila, who formed the Peoples’ Resurgence and Justice Alliance after ending a 16-year fast in August 2016. She was fasting for the repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act.
The CM’s son Surjakurnar Okram is contesting from the Khangabok constituency, where Congress and BJP workers clashed after the elections on March 8. Several police officers have been accused of vandalism and looting after the clashes, reported Firstpost.
Since exit polls suggest a close fight between the Congress and BJP, support from the Naga Peoples’ Front might help break the deadlock. The party is a BJP ally and is the ruling party in Nagaland. The state Assembly has 60 seats and 31 is the magic number.
The C-Voter poll predicted that the BJP will win 28 seats, the Congress will take 20, and the remaining 12 will be split by other parties. Axis showed a Congress win with 33 seats, BJP at nine and five for the others. According to the CNN-News18’s MRC poll, the BJP should win 25 to 31 seats, the Congress will bag 17 to 23 seats, and the others, including Irom Sharmila’s party, will win 11.
The Congress won 42 seats in the last Assembly elections. The BJP did not win any seats at all. The Naga Peoples’ Front got four seats and All India Trinamool Congress won seven. The party managed to win a majority of the seats despite a ban imposed by seven militant groups. Singh retained his seat in the Thoubal district and got re-elected to the CM’s post.