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Manipur Elections Under Shadow of Militant Strikes, Will Still Focus on Unemployment and Development

Amidst a shadow cast by recent terror strikes, Manipur, the `jewel of the Northeast ‘is headed for elections to its 60-member state assembly, with the Congress attempting to wrest back power from the ruling BJP- led coalition, which seems to be falling apart with smaller coalition partners deciding to put up candidates against the saffron party.

Besides law and order, the long standing demand for junking Armed Forces Special Powers Act, economic woes of the land-locked state which has hardly any industries, are expected to figure high on the agenda of the unfolding electoral battle between the two main parties with smaller local parties such as National People’s Party and the Naga People’s Front chipping in with their own demands.

The Bhartiya Janata Party which managed to form a government in 2017 despite having just 21 seats compared to Congress’s 28 by joining hands with two local parties – NPP and NPF – says it is looking to win two-thirds of the seats in the elections to be held in two phases on February 27 and March 3. Ch Chidananda Vice President, Manipur Pradesh BJP told PTI, his party’s aim “is to get more than 40 seats in 60-member house” emphasizing for clarity “that is (a) BJP government .

Indicative of the fissures within the coalition, Chidananda frankly admitted “in the hill area of ??the state (dominated by Naga tribes), the main fight will be between BJP and Naga People’s Front (current coalition partner of the BJP).” Despite differences with partners, both of whom have said they would field candidates against BJP, the saffron party leader said there are about 160 party ticket claimants including 31 MLAs or ex-MLAs of BJP seeking nominations for 60 seats in Manipur State assembly, indicative of the popularity of his party.

Analysts say dissensions within the BJP and unhappiness among the NPP and NPF partners over its harping on the Hindutva card has brought about a distance between the alliance partners and this may affect the saffron party’s chances at the hustings.

However, Pradip Phanjoubam, Manipur-based author and editor and an expert on Northeast said “though there are no pre-poll alliances we may witness post-poll alliances in case they are needed to form a government.” The ‘grand old party’, Congress, too is beset with problems with several of its MLAs deserting the party for the ruling BJP in recent months. Five Congress legislators including the former state Congress unit chief Govindas Konthoujam joined the BJP in August last year.

Another sitting Congress legislator Chaltonlien Amo joined BJP on Sunday. Amo’s defection to the saffron fold comes in less than a week after his colleague D Korungthang left the party to join NPF. However, N Loken Singh MLA, President Manipur Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) is confident the Congress will stage a come-back. Criticizing the present BJP-led coalition government in Manipur for corruption and financial scandal, Singh told .


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