Congress eyes fourth term in Manipur

Congress eyes fourth term  in Manipur

In the battle for Manipur, which goes to polls in two phases on March 4 and 8, the Congress is eyeing a consecutive fourth term, undeterred by an anti-incumbency factor.

On the other hand, the BJP is counting on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to give it the necessary thrust to emerge as a principal player. Modi is to address just one rally on February 25.

There is also attention on activist Irom Sharmila, who is making her electoral debut in the polls. She had given up her 16-year fast against AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act) last year. She went on to form her own party — Peoples’ Resurgence and Justice Alliance (PRJA) — and decided to fight the elections with the sole agenda of the withdrawal of the act from Manipur.

But PRJA has fielded only three candidates, making many wonder whether they can play an important role in the 60-member Assembly if they win. Irom is contesting the Thoubal seat against Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal donated Rs 50,000 to her party. AAP MP Bhagwant Mann followed suit, with a month’s salary.  The pressing issues in the state, however, include an economic blockade that has crippled life since November 1 last year in protest against the creation of seven new districts by the tribal groups.

The BJP is on the backfoot on two counts. “Since the central government is in peace talks with the NSCN(IM), they can easily put pressure on the United Naga Council to call off the economic blockade, which has caused much suffering in the valley and plains,” the chief minister said.

Secondly, like in Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh, the BJP has roped in former ministers in the Ibobi government, who left the party because they were sidelined.  The BJP is counting on the issue of corruption that has dented the Congress 15-year rule in the state.

In the last three Assembly elections, the BJP won no seats. After the disqualification of two defecting TMC MLAs, their seats were won in the mid-term byelection in 2015 by the disqualified MLAs after they joined the BJP. One has since left BJP to join Congress, leaving the saffron party with one seat in this Assembly.

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