BJP northeast test, politics on people’s issues
Plagued by insurgency since gaining statehood 50 years ago, Manipur will go to the polls along with four other states – Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa and Punjab – next month. next. Voting in the northeastern state will take place in two phases, on February 27 and March 4.
The state has a population of nearly 28 lakh, of which 20 lakh voters live in the state capital, Imphal. Tribes make up 41% of Manipur’s population: 53% are Meitei ethnic groups followed by 24% Nagas and 16% Kuki Zo.
Manipur has 60 constituencies, split between 40 in the valley and 20 in the hills. The state has nearly equal representation of Christians and Hindus. Most of the Christian population is concentrated in the mountain region of the state.
The insurgency is the most difficult issue facing the state government, with a few incidents of pre-election violence disrupting a relatively peaceful environment in the recent past.
The killings of an army officer as well as others in Churachandpur and the killings of civilians in neighboring Nagaland will have their effect.
Manipur Political Actors
BJP: The BJP rose to prominence in Manipur from 2014. Incumbent Chief Minister N Biren Singh joined the Saffron Party after a 15-year tenure in Congress in 2016. In the 2017 elections, the BJP won 21 seats, but because of a post-election alliance. together with the NPP and the NPF, they were able to form the government. Congress faced an exodus after the BJP formed the state government, which has continued to this day.
This time, the BJP claimed that they would win more than 41 seats, and their slogan is “Hanna hanna BJP, henna henna chaokhatpa (Again and again BJP, more and more development)”. This, backed by the dual engine government theory, is something the BJP is betting on.
A former journalist, Biren Singh first joined the Congress and then joined the BJP. A good political actor, he knows the art of balance. He is the only leader who has found a balance between valley and hills through his programs.
The ‘Going to the Hills’ and ‘Going to the Villages’ programs have helped develop a good image in its effort to build a relationship between the valley and the hill region. He also worked hard during the coronavirus pandemic. Another program, called ‘CM da haisi (Tell the CM)’ has built a positive image for Biren.
During his regime, Manipur experienced a relatively peaceful environment. But his good image has also worked against him inside the party, where infighting is common.
The exodus from Congress is massive and as a result there are too many contenders for a seat. Security has been tightened for the declaration of candidates. Additionally, sources said that candidates who run will sign a cooperation agreement with the party so they can be barred from making changes.
Apart from that, Biren is betting heavily on the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, drawing heavy criticism.
Congress: Congress has governed Manipur for more than 15 years, but state unity is currently facing erosion. Many deputies and other leaders left the great olf party, which has become its hallmark in the northeastern state now.
Congress has formed an alliance with five left-wing parties, but it is still unclear what benefits they will derive from it. Although the party has declared 40 candidates, its strategy for the next elections is not yet clear.
Former Chief Minister Okram Idobi will compete from Thoubal, while former MP CM Gaikhangam will compete from Nungba constituency.
Congress doesn’t have much to project, but still hopes for a victory.
National People’s Front (NPP): The NPP is a regional party working for the rights of indigenous peoples. It has its base in Meghalaya. Conrad Sangma is the national chairman of the party and looks after the two state units.
The NPP is allied with the BJP and helped form the government in 2017. The party fielded candidates in nine constituencies in 2017 and won four. This time, however, he did not set a pre-election alliance. The NPP has already declared 20 candidates, even as sources said they would contest 40 seats.
They gave tickets to Yumnam Joy Kumar, who is the Deputy CM and an important political face in Manipur. The NPP published its manifesto on January 23, in which it promised to take the initiative to withdraw the law on the special powers of the armed forces and to examine the rights of indigenous peoples.
Nagaland People’s Front (NPF): The Nagaland People’s Front is a regional party present in Manipur and neighboring Nagaland. They too are in an alliance with the BJP, but refrained from announcing a pre-election alliance.
Awangbow Newmai is the key person in the NPF, which focuses on the Indo-Naga peace process. The Manipur Unity Speaker has announced that his party will fight for the 12th Manipur Legislative Assembly election on the board of peace and prosperity.
In 2017, the party won four seats, but this time sources said it would field candidates with more than 15 seats.
The fight: The fight is mainly between the BJP and the Congress. While NPP and NPF are also in the mix, they will face off against their government ally BJP individually.
Political analysts said that in the current situation, the BJP has an advantage over Congress. But infighting within the BJP is a major concern.
Other Manipur Election Issues
Withdrawal from AFSPA: The polls came in the wake of the Churachandpur incident on November 14, where Assam Rifles officer Colonel Viplav Tripathi was killed along with six other people and the 14 civilian killings in neighboring Nagaland.
Biren also advocated for the repeal of AFSPA to the state. Both the NPP and the NPF have said they will raise their voices for the repeal of AFSPA. Congress has also asked Biren to raise this issue with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Violence: An 18-year-old student was shot dead and his father was shot and wounded when unidentified gunmen fired on them in Manipur’s Thoubal district, police said. The incident happened on January 26.
In another poll-related killing in Manipur, a police officer and his cousin brother were shot dead by miscreants in the western district of Imphal on January 9.
Pre-election violence has become common. Sources said that was why the polls were split into two phases.
Water shortage: Water scarcity is a major problem in Manipur, which is a drought-prone state. The water issue must be resolved. The state also needs more connectivity with the mainland. Political issues, not people issues, are at the forefront of this election. Therefore, none of the politicians touched on these issues.
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