The Business of Elections in Manipur: an attempt at analysis

Dr Nabakishor Haobijam *

Life on Highway 39
People's Campaign for Assembly Election 2012, Manipur

Being a professional quite busy with my own world of work is a boon in Manipur. However certain happenings in my beloved state, makes me concern and awaken myself from my own cocoon. So today,I want to share a personal perspective on the business of elections as it is happening in Manipur.

I confess the following write up is an attempt at analysis of the happenings, especially in context of our elections, electorates and the candidates, political parties. I am also an active member in People's Campaign for Assemble Election, initiated by Dr Bimol Akoijam, which has currently presence in Facebook and a website.

###Disclaimer: Majority of the "data" discussed here are guestimates, which are resourced from reliable first-hand accounts, public heresay, reliable web based databanks. I don't claim a 100% accuracy. However the overt picture, i.e the broader context of the analysis, follows a reliable logic. Its upto the members discretion to interpret the "quality of the analysis". And other elections like gram panchayat, municipal etc are not taken into considerations here.###


Elections in Manipur have undergone an evolution (or devolution?) in the process of electioneering as far as wooing of the voters is concerned. It's quite common knowledge that pay-for-vote has progressed into such complex business, that now the barter system is even mature for "bargaining" as a sales pitch, both by the electorate and the candidate. The one time ?simplistic nature of "haggling" has now even become a process for money laundering. Past experience has highlighted that this is a pan-India phenomenon, and not only restricted to Manipur. Some optimist would even claim that the "disease" is not critical in Manipur, like in some of the worst states of India.

The core question which a critic mind will ask is: Why? The answer is not simple. At one spectrum it may be as simple as a process of an individual's greed, asking a return for something he knows is valuable, coveted by the standing candidate, and at the other end of the spectrum it can be a complex amalgamation of processes involving money laundering, power mongering, corruption of ideals, nepotism etc etc. The members are free to interpret this in their own way.


Lets acquaint ourselves with some facts and guestimate of the following:

*Per capita income of Manipur ~Rs 23000
*Total adult franchisee: ~18 lacs
*Broadly dividing the population into three (according to income), we can have
1. Low income group
2. mid income group
3.High income group.

Majority of the population falls under the low income group, with a fair chunk in the mid group. The high income group accounts less than 20% population. The numbers of persons with huge ancestral assets running into crores of rupees are few, may even be counted by fingers!!!

*The average population in a constituency is ~25K

Analysis: Taking into consideration that , a)50% or majority of the votes is required for being elected
b)minimum 2 candidates may stand contesting and may average 3-4 when more, in a constituency
c)the average turn out of voting usually falls in range of >50% upto 80-95%,
the probable number of votes for a candidate to be declared elected may fall in the range of 10K to 12K when there are 2 candidates, or even 6K to 9K when there are more than 2 candidates (with an estimated similar distribution) in the constituencies.

A very rough estimates then follows that a contesting candidate needs to "harvest" a minimum vote of 6-9K and maximum of 12-15K of votes.

So when a candidate targets this population, then he may need to incur a "loss" of Rs 30 lacs to 75 lacs if he "pays" Rs 500 to the voters. This values changes to Rs 60 lacs to Rs 1.5 crores if he pays Rs 1000.

There can be additional cost for campaigning which can probably run into ~50lacs to 1 crore. So in total a standing candidate will have to have Rs 2-3 crores in hand before standing an election. This guestimate value may be actually less, as there can be many variations of bribery for votes. In reality the expenses may even run into 10-20 crores.

Now the question that can be asked is among the income groups (mentioned above) can these candidates fall? Not surely the low and mid income group. Then, who among the high income group? Considering the amount of money involved, which has a high risk of being lost, very few among the group would have the economic "temerity".

A likely profile of such persons will be:
a) Very rich businessman
b) A special contractor/ big contractor
c) A professional with big bank balance
d) An NGO with huge "expendable" funding
e) A sitting MLA/Minister with "percentage" balance.
f) A person with black money (from smuggling heroin, ganja , ephedrine etcetc)
g) A person with huge ancestral assets

A less likely profile of such persons will be:
a) A poor but honest man
b) A teacher /doctor/engineer etc with honest earning (who will fall into low/mid income group)
c) A social worker working earnestly (as a consequence of non-personal use of funds )
d) A farmer/rickshaw driver/ a small businessman/ima-potyonbietc
e) An unemployed honest educated youth
f) etc

This then interprets that those who are able to stand election may have a perspective of the electoral process as "business transaction" investment in, dividends out.i.e a strong vested interest other than public service. Taking into considerations the Political parties and partiesfunds, such "pay for vote" by the party tantamount to a consortium doing the "business transcation".

Competition among candidates/parties may accelerate the expenses. This phenomenon carries a high risk of money laundering. And this is especially true in Manipur, where the local avenues are considered less. These black monies can be commonly money from smuggling, but other sources are also possible.recently commission/cuts from national/state developmental projects are sources.

Now comes an interesting part of questions: What generates this pressure of "pay for vote"? The obvious answer will be competition among the candidates to woo the voters. A more critical component of this pressure is the "acceptance/greed" of the voter. This means that the process is feeded by the candidate and the voters in equal measures!

Hypothetically, it's a personal opinion; IF THE VOTERS REFUSES TO TAKE MONEY OR ANY OTHER FORM OF "BRIBERY" FOR VOTES, the "business" aspect of the electoral process will be almost negligent!!! However the competition among the candidates will still sustain, but may get directed to a more idealistic "issue base/quality service" angle:
*the heavy burden of losing Rs 2-10 crores will be eliminated
*lesser monetary investment then diverts the business transection aspect.
*candidates have to still woo voters performance and accountability will play major role.
*public gets the dividends of efficient governance
*persons with honest income may feel less challenged to stand election.

We voters have the "power" to change the way the election is fought. Individually there may be obstacles, bordering even threats, while exercising our right to vote. But a streamlined public mindset, lays a strong ambience which reduces such threats. LETS NOT TAKE MONEY OR ANY BRIBE TO SELL OUR VOTES. LETS INVEST IN THIS SHORT TERM LOSS FOR A LONG TERM GAIN.

A very important critical part as far as to bring the practical change:
Who among the population should/could take the moral responsibility?.....i.e. what should be the target population?

The answer lies with the educated, frustrated, willing to change, youths of this state. The reasons are:
1. we, youths, are supposedly more educated, which implies a better understanding of the democratic principles.
2. Our older generations have lived their life. We are/are yet to live our life to the fullest. Do we surrender to a frustrated or wasted life or make a small but corrective step?
3. Worldover changes/revolutions were brought by youths.....or students to be more precise.
4. The number of educated students staying out Manipur may range to 1-2 lacs. If these people don't waste their votes, things can be affected.
5. In future, some among todays youth will come into the fray of politics. Doesn't a corrected conditioned principle hold the potential for "effectiveness"?
6. The older generation of voters will be very hard to fact I blame them for most of our mess now!
7. Elections has been won by even margins of votes in tens. So a clean voter do still have power to affect change......its only that the votes should not be wasted.
8. We desperately need issue base politics changeover....who understand this better, if not our educated youths/students? Don't they know that UNEMPLOYMENT which will/is reflecting in their life is integrated with good/bad governance which related with how we choose/vote our representatives?
9. The geopolitical and economic pressures our stare is/will face are grasped better by youths, who now have started attuning to global way if thinking....we now know we can't remain isolated .
10. We have the power to make atleastan older generation family member understand these dynamics.

The next important question is :


If this is not a challenge to them, what else could be?

* Dr Nabakishor Haobijam wrote this article for
The writer is a Consultant Surgeon
This article was posted on December 22, 2011.

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