The X Factor: Winds Of Change In Manipur - Eastern Mirror
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The X Factor: Winds of Change in Manipur

By EMN Updated: Apr 05, 2024 11:14 pm

The announcement of BJP candidate for inner parliamentary constituency of Manipur caused jitters and flutters in the BJP circle. Rumours indicated that bigwig BJP leaders were shying away to contest from inner constituency. People perceived the delay in announcement as reluctance of prominent BJP leaders to risk defeat in the polls. Scramble for BJP ticket was missing exposing low level of confidence of its electoral prospect. The announcement sans jubilation and euphoria, from a party in power at state and centre, is an ominous sign.

For the outer parliamentary constituency of Manipur no one came forward for the BJP ticket. It was clear from the beginning that Kuki-Zomi tribe are disappointed with the BJP and would not favour the ruling party on account of the unresolved ethnic conflict. Even among the Naga politicians there were no takers for the BJP ticket. The slump in popularity of BJP in the hill areas became evident and compelled the ruling party to endorse Naga People’s Front (NPF) candidate.

The Kuki-Zomi are lying low having witnessed firsthand indifference and apathy of the ruling party in resolving the ethnic crisis. The Naga tribes, witnessed ill-treatment meted out to Kuki-Zomi tribal brethren vis-a-vis Meitei community and realised that the BJP would always favour the Meitei community over the tribals of Manipur. It is clear to the tribals of Manipur that the BJP would not stand up for their rights if their interest clashes with that of the dominant Meitei community. Undoubtedly the BJP has lost popularity in the Hill Areas.

Although the Kuki-Zomi organisations have called for boycott of polls, there are signs of reconsidering their stand. Answers are needed whether the boycott of polls would be advantageous. Those opposed to boycott may argue that their presence should be felt by voting since they represent a sizeable number of the electorate enough to swing the fortune of any party. This is the X factor which the political party fears as the polls draw nearer.

Almost a year has passed since the ethnic clashes erupted and both the warring communities are weary and exhausted from the clashes of attrition and the new normal of lawlessness. Other communities not directly involved have suffered too from economic effects and lawlessness. Given that demand for intervention of Hon’ble Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi went unheeded, elections may provide an opportunity to unhappy electorate either to pat the ruling party for good governance or punish them for misery caused. The debate is therefore likely to revolve around the performance of the ruling party and lesser on the credentials and promises of opposition party.

The Meetei/Meitei Tribe Union has threatened boycotting the polls for inner constituency if demand for inclusion of Meitei community in the list of Scheduled Tribes (ST) is not sent to Government of India. Acceding to the demand is unlikely as the nation is in the midst of elections and it would violate the Model Code of Conduct. It is therefore doubtful that the organisation will press for the boycott of polls as it may not find resonance with voters of inner constituency.

Kuki-Zomi organisation succeeded in stopping their political leaders from contesting in the outer parliamentary constituency. They have announced boycott of polls. This may amount to simply rewarding bad politicians for their bad behaviours as disgruntled voters stay away from democratic process. Fewer voter turnout happens if there is no anti-incumbency with voters preferring status-quo. If people do not vote, they miss an opportunity to bring democratic change. However, in a democracy, regardless of how disillusioned people are with politicians and the government, voters need to exercise their voting rights. Not voting is detrimental to the interest of the voter. By not voting, voters accept and signal that they are happy with the prevailing politics and government’s performance.

The churning within the Meitei and Kuki-Zomi communities indicates that there are unresolved issues with the state government and centre. It also indicates that there is a ‘Wind of Change’ picking up momentum in the state. It would not be surprising if the ruling party in Manipur gets a rap on its knuckles for ushering lawlessness and failure to restore peace. A change in leadership which could have paved a way for reconciliation, but ended in a sham, may become an eventuality if the ruling party gets defeated in both Lok Sabha seats. If it happens, the opposition should not construe their victory as a positive endorsement for their policies and programme but should understand that it is a reflection of negative votes against the BJP ruling party for their faulty policies and mishandling of the Manipur crisis.

Voters should vote to assert their rights and not regret for failing to do so and be the X factor for democratic vibrancy.

Ngaranmi Shimray

The writer is a New Delhi-based social activist and tweets @Aran Shimray.

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By EMN Updated: Apr 05, 2024 11:14:08 pm
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