Manipur Election 2017: State on tenterhooks as predictions swing wild between Congress, BJP

New Delhi: With most of the exit poll surveys predicting a clear victory for BJP in Manipur, a question that is doing the rounds is that if BJP is going to repeat history in the North East after the big Assam win last year.

Since the C-voter survey says that BJP will bag as many as 25 to 31 seats leaving the ruling Congress at 23 seats at the most, it could be a signal that the saffron party's strategy to implement Assam formula in Manipur too might have worked.

Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh. Image courtesy PIB

Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh. Image courtesy PIB

When BJP in Manipur started inducting Congress stalwarts as it did in Assam before elections, it was clear that the saffron party was following the Assam path.

Even the enemies of BJP admit the reality that Manipur does not differ much from Assam as a political terrain for the saffron party.

Like Assam, even Manipur has a sizeable Hindu population for BJP to bank upon. Manipur is resided by majority Meiteis, who are mostly Hindus and minority Nagas and Kukis who are mostly Christians.

Anti-incumbency against the three terms old Congress governments in both the states is another resemblance and that has been seen as an advantage by BJP.

While enjoying these advantages in Manipur, the saffron party also has to overcome one hurdle which is the Congress Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh himself.

There is a stark difference between the kind of politics practiced by Ibobi and Gogoi, whom the BJP defeated so easily in Assam.

The three terms that Tarun Gogoi ruled in Assam saw a gradual decline of the gun culture as well as much dreaded extrajudicial killings known as secret killings. On the other hand during Ibobi’s rule, Manipur saw 1,000 extra-judicial killings in the state.

Recent blasts and subversive activities during election period signify the reality that politics in Manipur is different from what it was in Assam last year which gave an even playing ground to BJP.

The recent period of the election in Manipur also saw freshening of the wounds in Naga-Meitei relationship in the state as Ibobi decided to create seven new districts in Manipur against the wishes of the United Naga Council and the NSCN(IM).

The rift has resulted in polarisation of Meitei nationalistic emotion in favour of Ibobi as the UNC imposed a four-month long blockade in protest of the decision to create seven new districts.

Even though most of the exit polls indicate a clear win for the BJP, there is still doubt about the possible outcome of the election among the experts, given the hurdle.

A Bimol Akoijam, an expert in Manipur politics presently based in Imphal told Firstpost that Congress might get a couple of seats more than BJP.

"BJP in this election is likely to get 15 to 25 seats whereas the Congress is likely to bag 20 to 30 of them in the state with 60 constituencies."

He also said that in that case, the Congress will need one or two and the BJP two or three allies to match the tally of 31 seats required to form a government.

It is not difficult to surmise why Ibobi is likely to remain the chief minister in case Congress matches the tally.

But the lack of a projected chief minister candidate on the part of the saffron party has left the voter wondering about who would occupy the coveted post if BJP happens to form a government.

In fact, BJP did not have a leader to project as the chief minister till a few months ago. Most of its stalwarts are the ones who have recently broken away from Congress.

Thounaojam Chouba Singh who is a frontrunner in the chief ministerial race in the saffron party was a minister of state in the NDA government under the leadership of prime minister Atal Bihari Vajapayee. Prior to that, he was a veteran Congress leader.

The second runner in the race is N Biren Singh who was a Congress MLA till last October when he resigned from the grand old party and joined BJP after a feud with Ibobi.

Y Eerabot Singh who joined BJP in last September was a Congress veteran and MLA before that.

In the case of any disagreement about the chief ministerial candidate, the BJP leadership may pose Ksh Bhabananda Singh, the president of the party’s state chapter, who has been with the party since 1995 and without a stint with the Congress. But Bhabananda Singh did not appear as the candidate in the Assembly election, even though he is seen as a leader trusted by the central leadership.


Published Date: Mar 10, 2017 08:47 pm | Updated Date: Mar 10, 2017 09:07 pm