Imphal, March 4: Amid lot of chaos, phase one of Manipur assembly elections is set to be held today from 7 AM to 5 PM in 38 assembly constituencies in the state. The constituencies spread across five districts of Bishnupur, Churachandpur, Imphal East, Imphal West and Senapati will fate of major national and regional parties face each other in the north-eastern state. With 168 candidates from Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Indian National Congress (INC), Naga People’s Front (NPF) and many others will be a fate decisive phase for any party which is wishing to rule the north-eastern state. Here you can find live updates of the first phase of Manipur assembly polling.
The first phase of Manipur assembly elections include 19,02,562 crore voters including 973,989 women. Although Manipur has been under an economic blockade for more than four months now, the Chief Electoral Officer has, contrary to popular belief, stated that they are expecting voter turnout of over 80 per cent in both phases.
Manipur has been engulfed in an economic blockade since November 1. Called by the United Naga Council (UNC), a Naga civic body as a form of protest against the creation of the seven new districts by the state government, the blockade has not only crippled the economic backbone of the state, but has spiked the prices of necessities causing greater hardship for the people. As incidents of violence began erupting in various areas, curfew was imposed in many parts of the state.
Initially, the BJP neither praised nor censured the State government’s move. But soon after the incidents of violence rose, some BJP leaders suggested imposing of President’s rule, which the State government deemed unnecessary. When these incidents increased and seeing no end to the hardship of the people, the Central government issued warning to the Ibobi Singh government to control the situation.
Soon the Election Commission of India came up with the dates for the assembly elections in five Indian states. Given that Manipur was already going through such a tensed situation, many speculated that the postponement of the elections will be a viable option, which was denied. Any delay in the election in Manipur was denied owing to the closing in of the expiry date of the present assembly term on March 18.
The Election Commission hence declared that the assembly elections in Manipur will be held in two-phases on March 4 and March 8. But there seemed to be no end to the misery of the people as the UNC denied rolling-back of the economic blockade at a a tripartite talk held between the Centre, the State and the UNC.
The primary concern of the UNC and their cause of protest is that they considered the creation of the seven new districts to be two faceted. Firstly, they considered this as a major threat to their political integration and their idea of ‘Nagalim’, the demand for a Greater Nagaland. Secondly, they in this move by the Congress-led government sees an attempt to woo the majority Meiteis of Manipur ahead of the polls.
Their accusations although seems true in some sense, but also raises questions about the concerns of the parties regarding the actual well being of the people. For instance, Irom Sharmila, although a human right activist, while initially applauding the move of the state government of creating the seven districts, is almost mum regarding the hardship of the people caused by the economic blockade.
Similarly, the BJP has initially been mum about the creation of the districts but as things escalated they had to get involved. BJP has two ends to meet in this political equation by the way. firstly in critiquing the move, it cannot displease the majority Meitei population of the state, a population they are banking upon for votes and secondly in praising the move, it did not want to irk the Naga front, a population they are in alliance with in Nagaland and another potential vote bank in Manipur. Although in these last days, BJP big-shot like Amit Shah has been saying that if it is brought to power it will make the UNC lift the economic blockade in 24 hours. (Ambitious much?)
In such dynamic times, it will be interesting to see which way the votes sway in this assembly election and how far are the dreams of the political parties fulfilled.
The second and last phase of the Manipur assembly elections 2017 is scheduled to be held on March 8. Counting of votes will take place on March 11.