GUWAHATI: Manipur will go to the final phase Assembly polls on Saturday against the backdrop of sporadic incidents of violence. The poling will be held in 22 constituencies, 11 of them straddling across two valleys and as many in the tribal-majority hills. After the first-phase election on February 28, opposition parties had accused the ruling BJP of using militant groups in peace mode to threaten voters and capture polling booths.
The fear of the gun looms large also in the second phase, particularly in the hilly constituencies of Tengnoupal and Chandel. After the first-phase polls in the hill district of Churachandpur, the militants had brutally beaten up five persons for voting in favour of a certain political party. Photos of their bruised bodies had gone viral.
In 2017, the Congress had won 12 of these 22 seats — eight in the Imphal Valley and four in the hills. The BJP had bagged three seats — two in the Imphal Valley and one in the hills. The Naga People’s Front (NPF) had won four — all of them in the hills. The National People’s Party (NPP) had won two, both in the hills, while an Independent emerged victorious in the Jiribam (valley) seat.
The Congress is confident of its prospects in the second phase. However, the political situation in the state has changed drastically over the past five years that saw half of the Congress’ 28 MLAs jumping ship, most of them embracing the lotus. “Eleven of the 12 Congress MLAs, who had won from these seats in 2017, are still with us. We are confident we can win 16 of the 22 seats this time. People across constituencies are supporting us,” Congress spokesman K Debabrata claimed.
He alleged the BJP had taken the help of some militant groups, which signed suspension of operation agreements with the government, to harass and intimidate Congress voters in the first phase elections. “The militants should be confined to their designated camps but they came out and openly supported the BJP,” Debabrata alleged.
The Congress and the BJP are expected to win bulk of the 22 seats. The BJP’s base has improved tremendously in the Imphal Valley as well as the hills since 201. Another factor likely to favour the BJP is that the Northeast voters usually vote for that party which is in power at the Centre. The NPF, which was born in Nagaland, is considered a powerhouse in 10 Naga-majority seats in Manipur hills where it has fielded candidates. The NPP, which leads Meghalaya government, is expected to win some seats in the valley.