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Manipur Election 2017: How Ibobi lost people's trust in polls which centred around public issues

The just concluded elections in Manipur have been in a very critical phase of political evolution of Manipur. In recent years there has been deterioration in the inter-ethnic relationships in Manipur with every political articulation taking the form of ethnic-based articulations. The ongoing economic blockade also added to the hardening of stands by all the political protagonists of the various ethnic groups. Since the elections were due soon, the chief minister of Manipur, Okram Ibobi Singh scored politically by creating seven new districts in the state. People speculated that this was done for political gains and to ensure his record fourth term as chief minister.  But Ibobi overreached by starting recruitment for the elections were announced.

 Manipur Election 2017: How Ibobi lost peoples trust in polls which centred around public issues

Okram Ibobi Singh. AFP

The recruitment and the accompanying talks of corruption made it no longer feasible for Ibobi to solely ride on the strength of creation of districts as the guarantee for winning the elections. Then he started the federalism issue of the Centre not empowering enough the state for lifting the economic blockade. A round of debates between the Centre and the state government followed.

The counter-accusations by both sides, viz. the central government and the state government, compelled Ibobi to bring up another issue. In the run-up to the Assembly elections 2017, Ibobi has been the mover and the opponents only a responder. So Ibobi raised the issue of the Framework Agreement between the central government and the NSCN(IM). This was the beginning of Ibobi losing the advantage in the game of elections. This made the population in the hills of Manipur, particularly the Nagas, feet the anti-tribal nature of Ibobi government. Then the biggest flaw in Ibobi’s strategic moves for the elections came when he publicly claimed his non-corruptibility. Ibobi may be right in claiming that he was not corrupt, but the public perception is absolutely otherwise. This made Ibobi a matter of public ridicule when only a few days were left for the elections and sharpened the public longing for a change.

The recent elections have some path-breaking characteristics. First, this time the elections have been centred around public issues. There has been continuous convergence between the public issues and the electoral canvasses. Irom Sharmila's party Peoples' Resurgence and Justice Alliance (PRJA) has played a significant role in keeping the issues alive; her winning or not is a different matter. Second, everyone across ethnicity have taken key interest in the elections. This implies that the various insurgent groups and their public players want to join the electoral process and get things done through that process instead of their earlier strategies. The emergence of a definitive government at the Centre could have played as a catalyst for this change of attitude. These factors have altogether brought a positive change in the character of political discourse in Manipur.

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Updated Date: Mar 11, 2017 12:33:39 IST