Individual charisma, anti-incumbency, 'people-centric' manifesto behind JDU success in Manipur

The JDU bagged six seats, one more than the Congress which had ruled the North-eastern state for 15 years in a row since 2002.
Bihar CM and JDU president Nitish Kumar (Photo | PTI)
Bihar CM and JDU president Nitish Kumar (Photo | PTI)

IMPHAL: The stellar performance of the Janata Dal (United) in the recently concluded Manipur assembly election can be attributed to anti-incumbency and individual factors, besides the promises made in the manifesto which include scrapping of the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), the party and political observers feel.

The JD(U) bagged six seats, one more than the Congress which had ruled the North-eastern state for 15 years in a row since 2002.

The party which did not get a single seat in the 2017 election finished this time only behind the BJP which won 32 seats and the NPP that secured seven constituencies.

The JD(U) also got 10.77 per cent of the votes polled.

"The people were mostly inspired by what we had promised in the manifesto. We promised to address the issues of inadequate infrastructural facilities and provide compensation for geographical isolation of the state," JD(U) general secretary (organisation) H Ravikanta said.

He said that the party's pledge to stand with the common people on the issue of AFSPA also helped its candidates win.

Political observers also feel that individual and anti-incumbency factors also played a part in the party's performance in the election.

"The success of the JD (U) candidates could be attributed to multiple criteria including the groundwork done by the candidates ahead of the elections, people's preference to clean images and anti-incumbency," Editor of The People's Chronicle daily, Imo Singh, said.

In the Thangmeiband constituency, JD(U) nominee Khumukcham Joykisan Singh helped people get all basic needs during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic and provided relief materials to quarantined families.

"This had won the heart of the people and ultimately the election for him," Imo said.

In Wangkhei, Churachandpur and Tipaimukh constituencies, he said, people wanted new leaders to represent them as they were not satisfied with their activities in the last five years.

Thus, JD(U) candidates won from these three seats.

Thangjam Arunkumar (Wangkhei) and former DGP LM Khaute (Churachandpur) had joined the JD(U) after the BJP denied tickets to them.

Senior journalist and political observer Pradip Phanjoubam said that individual factor does a lot in winning elections in Manipur.

"It is not the ideologies that pull voters in a state like Manipur but the persona and the support base created by the candidates," Phanjoubam said.

Supporters of Anwar Hussain, who came second in the 2017 elections in Lilong seat but failed to get the BJP ticket this time, backed Abdul Nasir, the JD (U) candidate who won, political analyst S Binoy said.

BJP nominee Y Antas Khan is not a resident of the constituency and that also worked against him, according to Binoy.

S Bamdev, a commentator on Manipur issues, said, "JD(U) candidates in Jiribam, Thangmeiband and Lilong constituencies have been associated with electoral politics for more than a decade with lots of experience, unlike their counterparts who are mostly new entrants in the field."

The JD(U) general secretary, however, did not like to give full credit for the win to the candidates' individual charisma.

"If individual factor is everything, the candidates would have opted to contest as independents. But they chose the JD(U) and that meant that people have faith not just on the individual but also on the party," he said.

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