Unusual Calm Marks Campaigning In Strife-torn Manipur Weeks Ahead Of Lok Sabha Election - Eastern Mirror
Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Unusual calm marks campaigning in strife-torn Manipur weeks ahead of Lok Sabha election

By IANS Updated: Apr 06, 2024 6:27 pm

IMPHAL — Given the over 11-month-long ethnic strife being witnessed in Manipur, campaigning for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in the state is significantly subdued this time, with the political parties and the candidates yet to organise large public meetings, something which is unprecedented in the 75-year electoral history of the northeastern state.

A small section of leaders of the major political parties campaigning at the individual level or the candidate himself or his party leader have been using the social media in a limited way.

Leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies and the opposition Congress-led INDIA bloc are mostly using the traditional media – print and electronic – to highlight their views, statements, commentaries and narratives.

Further, numerous civil society organisations including women’s bodies have issued appeals to refrain from engaging in campaigning as witnessed in the previous years, characterised by grand displays of strength through flag hoisting, large public gatherings, road shows, and extravagant feasts and assemblies.

Political pundits observed that the two phases of parliamentary elections to the Inner Manipur and Outer Manipur Lok Sabha constituencies would be held mostly on ethnic lines this time.


“The current situation in Manipur is sharply divided between valleys, inhabited by the non-tribal Meitei community people and the hills, occupied by the tribals.”

“A ray of hope has appeared that with the successful holding of the Lok Sabha elections the ethnic crisis would be tamed to some extent,” Manipuri writer Rajkumar Satyajit Singh told IANS.

The BJP has fielded state education minister Thounaojam Basanta Kumar Singh for the Inner Manipur Lok Sabha seat and in the Outer Manipur constituency, reserved for the tribals, the saffron party has extended its support to its ally Naga People’s Front (NPF) nominee Kachui Timothy Zimik, a retired Indian Revenue Service officer.

Congress candidates Angomcha Bimol Akoijam, a Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) professor, and ex-MLA Alfred Kanngam Arthur are contesting the Inner Manipur and Outer Manipur seats respectively.

Akoijam and Arthur are the consensus candidates of the 10-party INDIA bloc in Manipur.

Ten tribal MLAs, including seven BJP legislators, Indigenous Tribal Leaders’ Forum (ITLF), and Kuki Inpi Manipur (KIM), two leading tribal organisations have been demanding separate administrations for the tribals. The demand has been repeatedly rejected by the state and Central governments besides the ruling BJP and various Meitei organisations.

No candidate has been put up by the tribals belonging to the Kuki-Zomi-Chin communities.

Senior ITLF leader and spokesperson Ginza Vualzong said that so far no organisation has announced their support to any candidate.

“ITLF and Kuki Inpi only announced that there will be no candidates from their sides. So far no restriction has been imposed on the tribals about which candidates to vote for,” Vualzong told IANS.

Comprising of 32 assembly constituencies, encompassing Imphal West and Imphal East, Thoubal, and Bishnupur districts, the Inner Manipur parliamentary constituency is one of the two Lok Sabha seats that Manipur has, which is slated to go to the polls in the first phase of the elections on April 19.

The polling in the tribal-dominated Outer Manipur seat, where the remaining 28 assembly seats fell, would be held in two phases – April 19 and April 26.

With a demographic makeup spanning urban and rural areas, including the most populous regions in Manipur, the Inner Manipur Lok Sabha seat holds significant political significance.

In the 17th Lok Sabha, Inner Manipur was represented by the BJP’s Rajkumar Ranjan Singh who served in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet as the Minister of State for External Affairs and Education.

The BJP this time has dropped Ranjan Singh and has fielded Education Minister Thounaojam Basanta Kumar Singh.

As the electoral race intensifies, six candidates vie for this crucial Inner Manipur Lok Sabha seat, including popular film stars Rajkumar Samendro Singh, known as Kaiku, and Maheshwar Thounaojam, likened to Bollywood’s Mithun Chakraborty.

Noteworthy contenders also include retired Colonel Haorungbam Sarat Singh and Social Worker Moirangthem Tomtomshana Nongshaba.

However, the frontrunners in this electoral battle are Basanta Kumar Singh of the BJP and Angomcha Bimol Akoijam of the Congress, backed by the INDIA bloc.

Thounaojam Basanta Kumar, a voluntarily retired IPS officer, inherits a political legacy from his father and former Union Minister Thounaojam Chaoba Singh, a BJP stalwart in Manipur.

With exposure to national politics during his tenure as a Resident Commissioner and Officer on Special Duty to his father, Basanta Kumar pledges to prioritise the state’s development and communal harmony.

In contrast, Angomcha Bimol Akoijam, a newcomer to politics and a JNU associate professor, emerges as a vocal advocate against false narratives surrounding the unrest.

He emphasises the urgency of addressing the state’s existential threats and vows to champion the cause of the displaced populace, promising both physical and economic rehabilitation.

Akoijam questions the delayed response to the ethnic turmoil and highlights the absence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s direct intervention, contrasting it with his swift action in other regions.

At least 220 people have been killed, 1,500 injured and 60,000 displaced after the ethnic violence between the Meitei and Kuki-Zomi community broke out on May 3 last year.

By IANS Updated: Apr 06, 2024 6:27:45 pm
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