A layman appraisal on the 17th Lok Sabha election (Outer)
- Part 2 -

Henkhokai (Kakai) Singsit *

Voting behaviour of the Outer Manipur Constituency-

The voting behaviour of the hill and valley is quiet contrasting as party factor is evident in the valleybut this doesn't mean that the factor of caste or clan loyalty is totally absent among them. Voters in the valley have got uninhibited latitude when it comes to choosing their preferred candidates without threat or arm-twisting from extraneous elements. In the hill the voting pattern is influence by so many internal and external conditions that it is difficult to narrow it down to one definite pattern. Here the factor of tribe and clan loyalty comes into play and is also the main influencing factor. In many areas it can be seen that voting is either influenced by disruptive elementsor potent civil societies, eg. UNC and ANSAM leverage on the Naga voters is undeniable fact.

The fact that it had put Mani Cheranamei in the pedestal during the 14th Lok Sabha election and its candidate coming a close second during the 16th Lok Sabha election speaks volume. Threat, intimidation and coercion play an important part in the Manipur hill. People generally vote as they are dictated to do so. It is customary that a Naga will vote for a Naga candidate and likewise a Chin-Kuki will vote for their own kindred. It is on rare occasion that the Hill People transcend beyond tribe loyalty. Party loyalty is a myth among the Hill People.

Meitei'sinhibition with Naga candidates owing to geo-political differences had tended to favour the Chin-Kuki candidates. If this trend continuesthis time too, the non-Naga candidates might carry on the day. Regionalism is strong among the Naga community as evident by the strong presence Naga People's Front but ousted from power in Nagaland the Manipur NPF Unit and its candidate must be having a tough time.

NPF's decision to enter the electoral fray has thrown up interesting situations.Firstly, it is evident that the incumbent Chief Minister N. Biren Singh is unable to keep his flock together. Whether this will have ramifications in the on the BJP-led coalition government will be clear after the results are announced. Secondly, UNC and ANSAMwith the overt support of NSCN-IM will do everything at its disposal to get their candidate elected. Thirdly, the dormant Naga issue is likely come to the fore thus creating anxiety among the valley people.

NPP also an ally of BJP whose decision to field its own candidate is ominous for the future of the BJP-led government in Manipur. Militants leverage over the voters is an important factor in the Hill Districts. Many a time it is seen that voters vote as per the dictates of militant groups. This is one reason why political parties, National or Regional, are apt to wooing or inducing militant groups to support their candidates. The dignity of the individual is thrown to the dustbin.

With NPF in the frayand the Congress ticket being awarded to a Naga the split in Naga voters can be anticipated.Split is also inevitable among the Chin-Kuki voters owing to the fact that three candidates are in the fray. Meitei's reticence to vote for Nagas is expected to favour the Non-Naga candidatesbut it will also be presumptuous to undermine the prospects of the latter due to former CMIbobi, strong leverages in the seven assembly segments of Kakching and Thoubal district.

The Nagas having more than one lakh vote excess over the Chin-Kuki votes combine can also be the veritable game changer. The dynamics within the Chin-Kuki society- The inter-contradiction within the Chin-Kuki community and the intra-tribe/clan/sub-clan schism is so strong that it is expected to play the spoilsport this election. During the past two elections it was witnessed that a dominant tribe of CCpur district had voted for the Naga candidates. This time too, the same group is expected to vote for the NPF candidate, if the buzz is right. Again what those Mandarins ensconced at Tuibong thinks does not necessarily reflect in Kangpokpi districtor elsewhere because people at kangpokpi refused to be the second fiddle of those self-style bosses at Tuibong.

The same effect could be witness among the Chin-Kuki militant groups broadly categorised as Kuki National Organisation (KNO) and United Peoples Front (UPF). The tussle for supremacy or leverage over the people between this two group can be best explain by the contrasting demand both had put up to the Government of India with one demanding statehood whereas the other going for 'Territorial Council' withinthe ambit of a united Manipur.

The President of KNA/KNO during a recent public meeting in a bid to assuage the Meitei voters, as assume, officially recanted that his organisation has decided to go for the demand of territorial council instead of state. Though both this umbrella group had signed the suspension of operation (SOO) the tussle to expand their territory or wrest the jurisdiction of one group had left bitterness amongst them.

There are three Chin-Kuki candidates in the person Benjamin Mate BJP, Thangminlen Kipgen NPP and Hangkhanpao Taithul JDU. The controversy and high-drama that was witnessed among the Chin-Kuki society with civil societies pursuing INC ticket and whereas militant groups were found wooing forthe BJP ticket leading to recriminations and near show-down situations. To make matter more interesting was the consequent friction within the civil societies itself with branches coming out openly that they are not aware of the development nor were they consulted on the matter.

The same was witnessed among the UG groups with UPF coming out openly against the pursuance of KNO, as we the voters hung our heads in shame on being forced to watch these remorseless and shameless drama. But semblance of unity was effected after Benjamin was given the BJP ticket with Amit Shah and Biren Singh brandishing the big-stick against both the UG groups. Willy-nilly both UPF and KNO were dragged in not meddle with the BJP candidate.

It was a joy to watch the BJP herding our UG leaders by threatening them that they will be arrested, SoO will be withdrawn in the event of non-conformity or NSA cases would be slapped against them if they refuse to support the BJP candidate. Wobbling to their bones, immediately these UGs in turn flexed their muscles against social organisations, public leaders and village chiefs to canvass votes for the BJP candidate.

The flurry of the support letter that is flowing out is the outcome of these threats. And last the whip fell on the innocent public, the putative voters. One thing is evident from this drama that is Kuki UGs treat social organisations like dirt and thereby demeaning the very face value of these social organisations. It came as no surprise that the BJP was unable to flex its muscle just as they did it to the Kuki UGs and civil societies nor could they coerce them. Kuki undergrounds obsession for election ranging from MP, MLA, MDC and even village authority or youth club elections has always been its Achilles heel because every election gave birth to one or two dissenters thus paving the way for the formation of new groups.

There is this joke doing the round that Kuki UGs have proliferated to such an extent that even the English alphabets could accommodate it no more so new alphabet should be conceptualised. The irony is that our UGs are so corrupted that they simply refuse to learn.

Minority candidates- the catalyst of unity

The interminable tussle among major tribes of the Chin-Kuki group superimposed by the irreconcilable differences among the UGs have given rise to bizarre situation- unity through minority. It is a fact that semblance of unity could be witnessed among the Chin-Kuki group when minority tribes are given national party ticket.

This was the reason why Thangso Baite and Kim Gangte could be elevated to MP. This time too, the trend will remain unchanged. The present BJP candidate though from a minority group does not fit into the description.

In a nutshell I refuse to toe the line of these unlettered, unprincipled, insular, rapacious people who thrive on feasting on the blood of the hapless poor, I will vote as I want and as my conscience dictates me but not because someone's injunction.

For I am a free man living in a free democratic world, breathing free air and my right to vote is a sacrosanct right sanctified by the Constitution of this great Nation and if they are under the impression that I will cowered, then they are living in fool's paradise.

I have no love lost with the RSS and Modiji, nor am I dear to their candidate but my vote goes to Chief Minister N BIREN SINGH, my foster father.

Concluded .....

* Henkhokai (Kakai) Singsit wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on April 16, 2019.

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