'Firal Chingkhatpa': Unique Manipuri ritual helps candidates assess their support base before polls

Once practiced by Manipuri kings, the ceremony has become an integral part of election campaigning in the state. 

Published: 20th February 2022 08:00 PM  |   Last Updated: 20th February 2022 10:13 PM   |  A+A-

The large gathering at the ceremony.

Express News Service

IMPHAL: All roads in the Kshetrigao constituency of Imphal valley in Manipur on Sunday led to the house of Md Noor Rahman Sheikh, an Indian Foreign Service officer who is a Joint Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs.

It was the auspicious occasion of Firal Chingkhatpa (flag hoisting ceremony) of his brother Sheikh Noorul Hassan who is contesting the upcoming Assembly elections on the ticket of Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma-headed National People’s Party (NPP).

People came with rice, sweets, fruits, vegetables, flowers, etc, and placed them under an NPP flag that was fluttering high on the windy day when the smooth landing of flights was not easy.

The local MLA, Nahakpam Indrajit Singh of the BJP, had organised the ritual on Saturday.

Once practiced by the Manipuri kings, the unique Firal Chingkhatpa has become an integral part of election campaigning in the state. The candidates, irrespective of religious and political affiliations, organise it considering it sacred.

Going by the turnout of people, they get a sense of their support base.

On seeing a large number of people at the ceremony, the NPP chief Sangma predicted Hassan would win the polls at a canter.

“Every place that I am visiting, I see more and more people supporting our candidates. I have no doubt that Sheikh Noorul Hassan will win by a thumping majority,” Sangma told the crowd after the flag-hoisting ceremony at the candidate’s residence.

He also said that the NPP candidates and supporters would not be cowed down by the threats issued by rival political parties.

“People from other parties are targeting our candidates in many constituencies but we will not be afraid. The more they will challenge us, the more vigorously we will work,” the Meghalaya CM said.

During a poll campaign on Friday night, the father of NPP’s Andro candidate L Sanjoy sustained injuries on his right shoulder after being fired by suspected militants.

As for Hassan, he alleged there had been three incidents of hostility against him and his supporters, which were orchestrated by a rival candidate.

“But I will win it big. I expect to win by a record margin of votes this time,” Hassan, a law graduate who had unsuccessfully contested the 2012 polls as an Independent, said.

Claiming that the people in his constituency are fed up with the BJP’s false promises, he alleged the government deprived the actual beneficiaries of the benefit of every single scheme.

“Look at the condition of the roads. There are no proper schools, hospitals despite a part of the constituency falling under the state capital of Imphal,” Hassan said.

Kshetrigao is going to the polls on February 28. The second phase election will be held on March 5.

People, who follow Manipur politics closely, said the NPP might emerge as the dark horse. Buoyed by its 2017 success when it had won four of the nine seats it contested, the party has fielded candidates in 39 seats this time around.


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