A layman appraisal on the 17th Lok Sabha election (Outer)
- Part 1 -

Henkhokai (Kakai) Singsit *

With the 17th general election inching closer a craze is seen in wooing voters by resortto coaxing, inducements and even threat and intimidation from supporters and political parties to see that their respective candidate carry the day. By and large BJP and INC ticket was the most sought-after with Benjamin Mateand James Kashungbeing the beneficiary. Hangkhanpao JD-U, Thangminlen NPP and Dr Lorho Pfoze NPF are also in the fray whereas the latter two are touted to be strong contenders or could play the spoilsport for both the national party.

In the 15th and 16th general election of 2009 and 2014 both Congress candidate viz. Thangso Baite and Dr. TH Meinya carried on the day due to the fact that Congress was firmly at the helm of Manipur's affair. But fortunes turned the table of the Congress with the adventof Modi-led BJP at the centre in the 2014. The spiral effect could be witnessed in the 2017 state assembly election as BJP whose presence was nil until then reaped a handsomeharvest 21 seats whereas the ruling Congress could muster 28 seats from its previous tally of 47 seats, but still sort of a majority.

Since no party could mustered up simple majority the central leadership of the BJP had to strain their every nerve to keep the majority party, Congress at bay, in line with theirCongress Mukt Bharat. What flummoxed everyone was the governor's invitation to the minorityBJP to form the government. The role of the governor here is questionable as conventional practicedictates that the majority party was to be given the first floor test but she did not. The rest is history.

This election will not be a cake walk for any candidate whether he or she belongs to BJP or Congress. A resurgent Congress after brief neurasthenia is now brimming with confidence to take on the BJP. BJP had reached the climax of its winning streak with a thumping majority in UP election held in the early part of 2017 but after that it was down-hill all the way. It started with Phulpur and Gorakhpur Lok Sabha bye-election which had vacated to be vacated by the incumbent CM of UP, Adityanath Yogi and Dy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya as the combine SP-BSP clinched both the seats. It is noteworthy to mention that Yogi had won the Gorakhpur lok Sabha seat for five consecutive time. The aura of BJP's invincibility was put to check.

In the December 2017 state assembly election of Gujarat,the home state of PM Modi, the Congress gave such a tough fight that the BJP barely managed to scrape through but it was stung by the fact that Congress had seriously dented its vote-bank that it claimed a moral victory. Whereas, for the BJPit's victory was pyrrhic. Then came the Karnataka assembly election on March 2018 where the sitting BJP government was ousted from power by the combine JDS-Congress post-poll alliance. The defining moment came when Congress trounced the BJP in the crucial Hindi-speaking belt of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chattisgarhtouted as the semi-final to the Lok Sabha election and wrested them from it.

These Hindi speaking belts of North-India had catapulted BJP and Modi to the pedestal of power for it was these states (UP, Bihar, MP, Rajasthan and Chattisgarh) that contributed 157 MP's to the BJP's kitty of 282 seats whereas Congress could secureonly 5 (five) seats but this time it will be different as recent events had clearly demonstrated that BJP will have to part with at least half of their seats or more in these crucial states, ie, around 80 MP seats to either Congress or SP-BSP alliance in UP.

In the Lok Sabha election of 2014 BJP had exceedingly done well in Karnataka and Maharashtra by bagging 40 (forty) MP seats out of 70 Seats whereas the Congress could obtain only 11 (eleven) seats. With a Congress-led coalitionin Karnataka and the BJP-Sena coalition boat rocking in Maharashtra nothing augurs well for the BJP.The above six states had given a total of 197 seats to the BJP and if they lose half of their seats here then it will sound the death knell for it.

The Pulwama terrorist attack and the immediate retaliation by the Indian Airforce against those terrorist holed up in Pakistan not only gave a new lease of life to the sagging fortunes of the BJP but it also turned the tide against a resurgent Congress who had the audacity to question the authenticity of the attack. Incidentally Modi's public approval rating soared whereas that of Rahul's plummeted.

Manipur and election vibes:

Riding on the crest of Modi's popularity the BJP which had no virtual and physical presence in Manipur and the North-East part of India could make a significant foothold decimating the INC wherever it enter the election fray. Manipur either was not immune from Modi-Shah juggernaut as BJP-led government is at the helm of affairs here and with a popular leader like Biren holding the CM's mantle it will be difficult for any political party to beat the BJP's candidate in the Lok Sabha election of 2019.

But the faux pas of BJP on many issues had made it unpopular in the NE-India especially the recent CAB issue that had invited a lot of ferment. Jittery at the prospect of losing all the 25 seats in the NE states the central leadership of BJP thought it prudent to keep the issue in abeyance. The end result is this issue had seriously dented BJP's prospect in NE India.The recent announcement of BJP's National President, Amit Shah that the shelved CAB Bill was a momentary pause and BJP will introduce it if they return to power created a flutter.

It will be interesting to see whether Biren Singh, the incumbent CM will be able to transform his popularity to electoral success. Again,it will be gross miscalculation to write-off the Congress and overestimate the calibre of the BJP for both BJP and INC possess knife-edge leverage on the voters whether it is in the hill or the Manipur valley. Theentry NPP and NPF in the hustings had evenmore complicatedthe prospect of both the national party candidates.

At the receiving over issueslike CAB bill, the failure to bring back black money, Demonetisation and GST, failure to deposit Rs 15 lakh each to every Indian account holders, religious persecution of minorities in the mainland, the menace of Cow vigilantes, Ghar Wapsi, the audacity of right-wing Hindu extremists, the attempt to rewrite the constitution and overhaul the secular fabric of the nation, the projection of a India as a Hindu state so and on,the BJP is expected to face backlash over these issues. The bigotry and religious intolerance that was witnessed after Modi's ascension has not gone down well with the Christian-hill people.

The Hill People with whom Biren had established a warm rapport are in quandary given the fact that all the events in the mainland India has made them uncomfortable because many of them view Modi-led BJP as a threat to their culture, religion and ethos. Many clips that are being circulated in social media's- of Hindu extremists vowing to wipe off Christianity and reconvert them has created a lot of uneasiness among the hill people.

No matter what the government does or insurgent groups issuing threats and strictures to vote for the BJP candidate people's conscience are already stricken. The question of the day is will Biren be able to transform his popularity into electoral success?

Dissection of the Outer-Manipur constituency:

The Outer-Manipur constituency has got 28 Assembly Constituency seats with 20 AC's from the Hill and 8 AC's from the valley. The total number of voter is around10 Lakhs with the Naga community possessing around 4.24 Lakhs, the Chin-Kuki group around 3.23 Lakhs and the Meitei community contributing around 2.15 Lakh votesis very decisive in turning the fortune of a candidate. Party wise the BJP has got 11 MLA's, the Congress- 10 MLA's, NPF- 4 MLA's, IND- 1MLAand NPP-2 MLA'S.

Segment wise the Chin-Kuki community possesses 10 MLA's (BJP-6, Congress-3 and NPP-1), the Naga community also possesses 10 MLA's (BJP- 1, Congress-4, NPF- 4 and NPP-1) and whereas Meitei's contributed 8 (eight) MLA's(BJP-4, Congress- 3 and IND- 1).

Constituency wise distribution of party MLA's are-

1. Heirok- BJP, 2. Wangjing-tentha- BJP, 3. Khangabok- INC, 4. Wabagai- INC,
5. Kakching- BJP, 6. Hiyanglam- BJP, 7. Sugnu- INC, 8. Jiribam- IND,
9. Chandel- NPP, 10. Tengnoupal- INC, 11. Phungyar- NPF, 12. Ukhrul- INC,
13. Chingai- NPF, 14. Saikul- INC, 15. Karong- INC, 16. Mao- NPF,
17. Tadubi- NPP, 18. Kangpokpi- BJP, 19. Saitu- BJP,
20. Tamei- NPF, 21. Tamenglong- BJP, 22. Nungba- INC, 23. Tipaimukh- INC,
24. Thanlon- BJP, 25. Henglep- BJP, 26. Churachandpur- BJP,
27. Saikot- INC and 28. Singat- BJP

(To be continued)

* Henkhokai (Kakai) Singsit wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on April 11, 2019.

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