Manipur prepares for polls.

Manipur prepares for polls.

Despite rift among ruling allies, Manipur buzzing ahead of polls

In 2017 Congress refused chance to form govt despite being single largest party

Agency Report | Imphal | 8 October, 2021 | 11:00 PM

With disagreement brewing between the ruling allies months ahead of the elections to the 60-seat Manipur Assembly, hectic political and administrative activities have begun in the BJP-ruled state with both political parties and Election Commission readying themselves for the electoral battle.

Manipur is one of the four BJP-ruled states in the northeastern region comprising eight states. The others are Assam, Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh, while the allies of the saffron party are ruling in the remaining northeastern states.

BJP President J.P. Nadda will visit Manipur on Saturday and Sunday and hold a series of meetings with the party leaders and BJP allies — the National People’s Party (NPP) and the Naga People’s Front (NPF).

On October 2, Nadda had held a meeting with Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren Singh, state minister Biswajit Singh, and state party chief A. Sharda Devi in Delhi.

Home Minister Amit Shah, BJP national General Secretary (organisation) B.L. Santhosh, Union Minister Bhupender Yadav and party spokesperson Sambit Patra were also present in the meeting.

According to BJP sources in Imphal, Singh and other state leaders have apprised the central leaders about the current political situation in the state.

The sources said that the central leaders also asked the Chief Minister and other party leaders to prepare a roadmap for winning the upcoming Assembly polls, which are expected to be held along with the elections in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Goa early next year.

In a setback for the ruling alliance, the NPP led by Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma recently announced that it would go alone in the polls, which is expected to be held in February-March before the end of the Manipur Assembly terms on March 19.

Sangma had said that the Manipur Assembly elections are crucial for the NPP to emerge as a stronger political force and to expand the organisational base in the state.

With four MLAs, NPP, the lone national party from the northeastern region, is one of the major allies of the BJP-led government in Manipur.

Initially, all the four MLAs were made ministers but two of them were dropped from the council of ministry in September last year after the NPP and the BJP got engaged in an open squabble, which had to be sorted out by the Central leaders.

Of the two NPP ministers, Deputy Chief Minister Yumnam Joykumar Singh is holding the Finance, Excise, Taxation, Science and Technology, Economics and Statistics and Civil Aviation portfolios.

Senior NPP leader L. Jayentakumar, former Education and Health Minister, said that there is no pre-poll alliance with any party.

“The NPP would play a key role in the formation of the next government after the elections,” Jayentakumar said.

With four legislators, the NPF is yet to declare its stand for the upcoming polls, but people in the political circles believe that the party, which has strong organisational networks both in Manipur and Nagaland, might keep its alliance with the BJP.

After 15 years, Congress was ousted by the BJP-led alliance in the 2017 Assembly polls, despite emerging as the single largest party with 28 seats. But the saffron party, which had bagged 21 seats, stitched together a coalition government with the support of four NPP MLAs, four NPF members, the lone Trinamool Congress MLA and an Independent member.

Senior Congress leader and former Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh said that his party would again win majority in the next elections, just like in 2017.

“Last time (2017) the then Governor Najma Heptulla refused to give the Congress a chance to form the government despite Congress emerging as the single largest party with 28 seats.

“The voters in Manipur are not fools and they are conscious enough to elect their genuine leaders who deliver the goods with all sincerity,” the former Chief Minister said.

Meanwhile, the Election Commission on Thursday held a virtual meeting with the district election officers (DEOs) of all the 16 districts in Manipur.

According to an EC official, Deputy Election Commissioner Nitesh Vyas discussed the status of poll preparedness and conducted a special summary revision of the electoral rolls in the state as well as the responsibilities of the DEOs in the successful conduct of the polls.

The meeting also discussed polling stations’ rationalisation, involvement of human resources, training of officials on proper functioning of EVMs and VVPATs, election materials, law and order, district specific issues, and enrolment of 18-21 age group voters, among others.

The official said the EC has assured maximum support and assistance for the smooth conduct of the polls in Manipur.

Manipur Chief Electoral Officer Rajesh Agrawal, Additional CEO N. Praveen Singh and other senior officials were present in the meeting. (IANS)