IMPHAL: If there is a widespread perception of big money spending during elections in many parts of the country, including the Northeast, Manipur stands out as an exception. The reason is not demonetisation.
The streets in Imphal Valley, which is one-tenth of Manipur, do not tell the story of a State going to elections in three days time. When one expects frenetic activities before campaigning comes to a close, the streets here are quiet. Supporters moving around in convoys of vehicles shouting slogans and posters and banners of candidates and political parties hung around thoroughfares are a rarity here.
From the time the model code of conduct came into force, only around Rs 2 crore has been seized.
The locals claim money does exchange hands on the sly but the volume of it is negligible compared to other States. Unlike Arunachal and Nagaland where a candidate is required to spend in crores to win any elections, the candidates in Manipur can afford to go by the Election Commission’s rule to spend less than Rs 20 lakh. According to locals in Arunachal, a candidate is required to spend anything between Rs10 crore and Rs 30 crore to win an election.
With just seven days left for the last of two-phase Manipur polls on March 8, the candidates are still going about hoisting flags. The flags are hoisted before launching campaign. It is considered auspicious and believed to bring good luck. The parties in consultation with astrologers and priests decide when the flags are to be hoisted.
“We do not need to spend much to win elections. People’s sympathy and trust are with us,” Manipur unit Congress president T N Haokip told Express.
The locals claim that “limited cash” is doled out to woo voters.
“It will be wrong to say that money does not play a part in elections in Manipur. It does. However, when you compare it with the trends in rest of India, it is perhaps, negligible. The candidates help voters mostly by providing them items to arrange a marriage, hold a festival or perform rituals after a person’s death,” said S Sanayaima, a local.
The Election Commission attributed the trend to its strict and effective monitoring of poll expenses besides tradition.
“We are strictly following the Election Commission guidelines. As such, we have not allowed any posters, flags, banners etc to be hung on public property. We allowed them to be hung on private property and that too when the owners give their consent in writing. Secondly, convoys of supporters, exceeding five vehicles, come to the glare of expenditure observers,” Manipur’s chief electoral officer (CEO), Vivek Kumar Dewangan, told Express.
“Another reason is that the candidates got prolonged two months’ time to attract voters. There are only around 25,000 to 35,000 voters in a constituency. So, a candidate usually targets a maximum of 15,000 voters. The candidates rely on house to house campaigns. They have to touch only around 200 voters a day,” he said.
Manipur also does not have the tradition of big public meetings except when they are addressed by star campaigners.