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Manipur Election 2017: Narrow margin victories common in state; TMC played major role in bringing fight down to the wire in 2012

In a state which resides a multitude of communities, Manipur is politically active and come every election season, there is close contest between various political parties (national or regional) to win the Assembly seat.

This election season too, while we are sure that there is going to be good voter turn-out (because historically the state has had good voter turn-out) it remains to be seen which constituencies will see the closest competition. Which parties will win by a whisker?

We have analysed data provided by the Election Commission for the past three Assembly elections in the state for some constituencies where these fights went down to the wire.

After his second consecutive victory from the Thoubal Assembly constituency in the 2012 polls, Congress leader Okram Ibobi Singh became the chief minister of Manipur for a record third time. His scale of victory was rather huge — defeating his nearest BJP rival Oinam Indira by a margin of over 67 percent of the total votes polled.

In sharp contrast, another constituency Hiyanglam, which notably also comes under the Thoubal district to which Ibobi belongs, witnessed one of the narrowest election victories ever. Maibam Kunjo of the Trinamool Congress barely managed to defeat his Congress rival Elangbam Dwijamani Singh, he won by a margin of 17 votes.

However, Kunjo — who died in August 2014 — was not the only one who won by a whisker in the 2012 elections.

Out of the total number of seats (which is 60), 20 seats saw a victory margin of less than a thousand votes, which translated to a margin of less than five percentage of the total votes polled.

Manipur CM Okram Ibobi Singh. Reuters

Manipur CM Okram Ibobi Singh. Reuters

A close look at the narrow victories in some of these constituencies suggest that the Trinamool Congress had played a major role in bringing the contest down to the wire. The party had debuted in the 2012 polls winning seven seats.

Interestingly six of them were won by a margin of less than a thousand votes.

The Mamata Banerjee-led party also fared well in six other constituencies where it lost by a slim margin.

Two of the MLAs who had to face extremely close contests in their constituencies — Irengbam Hemochandra Singh from Singjamei and Khumujam Ratankumar Singh from Mayang Imphal — became ministers in the Ibobi-led Congress government.

While Hemochandra, who had also served as the Speaker of the Manipur Assembly, won by a margin of just 157 votes; Ratankumar, on the other hand, defeated his nearest Trinamool rival by a margin of less than 800 votes.

However, the trend of wafer thin margin of victories is not new in Manipur politics. In fact, in a smaller states, where constituency sizes are smaller, margin of victories can often come down to below the thousand votes mark.

In the 2007 polls, 18 of the legislators were elected by a margin of less than a thousand votes. The narrowest of the victory was achieved by Mohammad Allauddin Khan, who was re-elected from the Keirao seat by an unbelievable margin of two votes.

The 2002 polls saw even greater number of seats being won by a narrow margin of total votes polled. That election, 25 seats were won by less than a thousand votes and a margin of less than five percent.

Often lower voter turnout can lead to close contests in various constituencies. But the case with Manipur seems to be an aberration. With high turnouts, ranging over 65 percent since 2002, the hypothesis seems to not work in the state.

However, one possible reason for such pitched electoral battles seem to be the violent inter-community rivalry between the Nagas and the Kukis.

Nineteen of the 60 seats, which are situated in the hilly region, are dominated by either Kukis or Nagas. Both tribes have been at loggerheads since the 1990s. In times of sharp polarisation, coupled with the usual high voter turnout, it is often tough to pick eventual winners.

The Meitei Muslim community too holds card to the electoral fate of candidates in at least 10 seats including, Lilong, Keirao, Wabgai and Wangkhem, according to a report in The Times of India,

The 4 and 8 March elections will be interesting to watch out for. The Congress is facing an anti-incumbency wave while BJP looks to snatch its arch-rivals bastion in the northeast.

The Trinamool Congress would look to better its last performance, while the Naga People's Front would seek to expand its influence in Naga areas capitalising over the public agitation against the creation of nine new districts from Naga-dominated areas.

It is important to note that the elections are taking place amid the economic blockade backed by Naga groups and the growing rift between the Meiteis, who dominate the plains, the Nagas and Kukis.

The entry of anti-Afspa activist Irom Sharmila into the electoral fray and her decision to take on the chief minister in his stronghold Thoubal constituency adds hue to the already vibrant political scenario in the insurgency infested state.

With a multi-cornered fight on our hands, we may very well witness more close contests in Manipur.

(With inputs from PTI)

Updated Date: Mar 05, 2017 16:12 PM

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