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BJP faces multi-cornered contest in phase one of Manipur polls

Twenty-nine of the seats are spread across three Imphal Valley districts and the nine others lie in three hill districts. The BJP and Congress had won 18 and 16 of these seats respectively in 2017.

Published: 27th February 2022 12:50 PM  |   Last Updated: 27th February 2022 12:50 PM   |  A+A-

Vote, Polls, Election

Image used for representational purpose only. (Photo | PTI)

Express News Service

Imphal: The stakes are high for the ruling BJP as it faces a multi-cornered contest when 38 of Manipur’s 60 seats go to first of two-phase elections on Monday. Twenty-nine of the seats are spread across three Imphal Valley districts and the nine others lie in three hill districts. The BJP and the Congress had won 18 and 16 of these seats respectively in 2017.

The elections will be fought against the backdrop of allegations by Congress and the National People’s Party (NPP) that the BJP used tribal militants to threaten the voters in some hill districts.
 The Congress had on Saturday petitioned the Election Commission demanding immediate action as the banned Kuki National Organisation, which is a conglomerate of militant groups, openly committed its support to the BJP.

Over the past two months or so, there have been a series of poll-related violence. The father of NPP’s Andro candidate was fired upon by suspected militants. He escaped with injuries. The BJP clearly has an edge over others but it suffered a virtual split due to ticket-related issues. A number of its leaders, including MLAs, deserted the party after missing the poll bus. They are contesting the polls on the tickets of Congress, NPP and Janata Dal (United).

The people on the streets of Imphal Valley say the BJP’s prospects dimmed as it deprived tickets to some deserving candidates. Some, with their eyes fixed on the chief minister’s chair, allegedly favoured their loyalists looking at the post-poll scenario when the support of the MLAs will be crucial in the selection of the CM face. The one who enjoys the support of more MLAs will stand to gain.

The BJP is more visible compared to other parties but the general perception is that the polls will throw up a fractured mandate as in 2017. In that election, the BJP had won 21 seats compared to the then ruling Congress’ 28 but managed to cobble up the numbers and formed a coalition government. Now, the BJP and the NPP have fallen apart. In the event of a hung House, the BJP is expected to seek the support of ally Naga People’s Front and JD (U).

As for the Congress, despite being hit hard by the defections of half of its MLAs, mostly to the BJP, over the past five years, the party’s 13-14 MLAs are likely to get re-elected. One party to watch out for this election will be the NPP. It is expected to give the BJP and the Congress a run for their money in a number of seats if the “threats” issued to some NPP candidates and workers by the militants are anything to go by.

In 2017, the NPP had contested nine seats and won four. All four MLAs were inducted into the ministry for the party’s support of the BJP. Buoyed by that success, the NPP is contesting 39 seats this election.
The JD (U) is also dreaming big after several BJP leaders, including some sitting and former MLAs, and retired bureaucrats joined its ranks. Unlike in the past, people are now talking about the party.

The BJP is hoping to retain power by playing the development card. But unemployment and alleged corruption in the government are major poll issues. Then there are the issues of price rise, black marketing of urea, lack of infrastructure etc in the hill districts.

Total seats: 60
First phase seats: 38
Voters-12,22,713
Male voters-5,93,262
Female voters-6,29,276
Transgenders-175

Candidates 173, including 15 women

BJP-38, Congress-35, JD(U)-28, NPP-27, Shiv Sena-7, RPI(A)-6, NCP-6, LJP-3, Kuki People’s Alliance-2, Kuki National Assembly-1, CPI-1 and Independents-18

Prominent candidates: Chief Minister N Biren Singh (BJP), Speaker Yumnam Khemchand Singh (BJP), senior minister Thongam Biswajit Singh (BJP), former Congress chief Konthoujam Govindas (BJP), Deputy CM Yumnam Joykumar Singh (NPP), former minister Nemcha Kipgen (BJP), Congress president N Loken Singh, Sheikh Noorul Hassan (NPP)



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