GUWAHATI: Manipur’s iconic activist Irom Sharmila literally has a mountain to climb to be able to secure the repeal of controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) despite having entered the political arena.
She had changed the turf of her fight against AFSPA last year by ending her fast and founding People’s Resurgence and Justice Alliance (PRJA). Its initial plan was to field 20 candidates but ended up fielding just three in the two-phase elections to be held in March.
Sharmila is contesting as well and is up against the Congress biggie and incumbent chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh from the Thoubal seat. Ibobi had won the last two elections here with record margins.
The Manipur CM is a seasoned politician who guided his party to power for three terms. In contrast, Sharmila is a novice in electoral politics. Furthermore, it is no big secret that money plays a big role in elections but all that the PRJA has is a little over Rs 3 lakh.
Given Ibobi’s stature and influence over voters in his constituency and Sharmila’s inexperience in electoral politics, her defeat is, possibly, a foregone conclusion. There is a perception that she will not be able to put up a decent fight against the chief minister, leave alone a victory. But the PRJA is not ready to accept it. “We are giving our best shot. Let’s wait and watch what the mandate of the people is like.
But wherever she (Sharmila) is going, she is getting a good response,” claimed PRJA spokesperson, Geetika Sehmay.
“People gather around to see her and know her action plan. She says she may have taken a different route but her goal remains the same,” the spokesperson added. An Imphal-based political scientist, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said it was very unlikely that PRJA would win any seat.
“If you look at Manipur’s voting pattern in the last 15 years, you will see people don’t vote in favour of personalities. The one who is rich or the one who is contesting on the ticket of a bigger political party, usually wins,” the political scientist said.
In a state where extra-judicial killings are common, Sharmila was the face of the movement against AFSPA. By ending her fast, she riled many and her image took a beating.