Updated 11 Mar 2022, 7:49 am
When BJP first raised the slogan of Congress Mukta Bharat, many were taken by surprise. In a parliamentary democracy, there is always a need for a strong opposition and it makes politics healthy in a sense. Despite defections and shifting of loyalties, the Congress played a spirited role as opposition in the 11th Manipur legislative assembly. In the 2022 assembly elections, the Congress was decimated in a single digit tally. What led to this? The factors leading to such a situation have to be debated.
In the firm belief that Congress might get a sizeable number of seats it had deputed a strong team of AICC observers to Imphal to conduct the post poll strategy and government formation. They are not that confident of bettering the BJP numbers, but they are looking for partners to form the government as BJP’s allies in the present government had fought the elections on their own.
Congress general secretary Mukul Wasnik had said that exit polls can go wrong. Right from 2017, it has gone all wrong for the Congress. Although it emerged the single largest party just three short of a simple majority, the BJP with only 21 MLAs managed to cobble together a coalition and form the government with a sympathetic Governor at the Raj Bhavan.
The most significant exit in 2017 was former minister and trouble-shooter N Biren Singh who went on to become Chief Minister in a BJP-led coalition government. In the 2017 elections, the party got a limited mandate of 28 MLAs which led to the BJP stealing the mandate. Out of power, its ranks keep dwindling with many of its MLAs either openly or indirectly supporting the BJP led government, till it was left with only 13 MLAs in its kitty. It was mainly resentment with former CM Okram Ibobi Singh’s leadership which led to Biren Singh jumping ship just before the elections in 2017. The same is still true in the case of party stalwarts like Govindas Konthoujam, Dr Chaltonlien Amo and Kh Joykishan leaving the party. But what most hurt O Ibobi was the exit of his nephew Okram Henry whose support to BJP led to gaining a Rajya Sabha seat and securing the confidence vote.
With the exodus of many senior leaders just before the elections, the state Congress seems to be acting like a drowning man grabbing at straws in a bid to survive as a viable political entity in the state. Once a formidable force and one of the last Congress bastions in the wake of the BJP wave, Manipur Congress was certainly struggling. Maybe it was a tactical move. But failure to announce candidates for six important seats out of seven in the Imphal Municipal area while announcing its first list of 40 candidates is also being interpreted as withering of support base.
In the 2017 assembly elections, the Congress won three seats while BJP and NPP won two seats each in Imphal area. Except for Uripok constituency, the party has not announced candidates for the crucial seats of Khurai, Wangkhei, Yaiskul, Thangmeiband, Sagolband and Keishamthong constituencies.
The candidate announced for Uripok constituency is a youth leader and a lightweight, which speak volumes. A Congress spokesperson Manipur Pradesh Congress Committee said the list with 40 names is the first list and the party will release the second list of around 12 candidates by the end of the month and subsequently a few more names. The party is likely to field around 55 candidates in the 60 member Manipur Legislative Assembly. The spokesperson further said that the party might sacrifice a few constituencies in the largest interest of non-BJP parties.Then comes the announcement of a pre-poll alliance with CPI, CPI(M), RSP, JD(S) and Forward Block on Thursday in the ensuing assembly elections of Manipur. They say, the pre-poll alliance was formed with the common motive of defeating the BJP. Except for CPI, the other left parties and JD(S) are non-entities in the state electoral politics.
The CPI had its day in the sun in the past with even five MLAs winning elections at one go. Meanwhile, the others had no representation in the state assembly so far. In 2017, the CPI could not open its account.
First published:10 Mar 2022, 6:24 pm
manipur congressmanipur pollsmanipur elections 2022okram ibobi singh