Changing system of canvassing

Manipur does not figure in the BJP’s manifesto which is called “Modi ka Guarantee” making the whole election tamasha a personal agenda, confirmed by his 51 pictures in 71 pages.

ByRK Nimai

Updated 17 Apr 2024, 4:57 am


Due to the prevailing situation in Manipur, canvassing for votes has changed drastically. In the 1972 elections, distribution of cash for votes was minimal but the noise was tremendous. Using PA system, in every locality votes were sought and even in the evening canvassing using PA system fixed on a vehicle either a four wheeler or an auto-rickshaw was the norm. Despite the restriction that use of the PA system was banned after 10.00 PM, violation was the norm and people took it for granted.

By the 1980s when this writer returned after his higher education outside, he found that the system had changed for the worse. People used to gather in large numbers at various places and feasting along with drinks was the norm. Large public meetings still continued but most of the votes were bought using cash. In an electorate of about 25,000 about 15,000 were distributed with cash with the hope that even if say 67 per cent cast their votes, the chances of winning are very high. With time even hard drugs and liquor were distributed freely to the hanger-on, besides cash which kept on increasing in every subsequent election.

However, due to the large number of voters in the MP election, distribution of cash was hardly resorted till the 2019 MP elections where in pockets voters were purchased using cash. This time also, at least one party is expected to seek this recourse. Road shows on foot slowly changed to bicycle and then to motorcycles including four wheelers. But this year there were no road shows, which is like a wisp of fresh air as the already choked roads are free from this menace.

In the valley, booth capturing is uncommon though in the hills it is a common feature. But during the last few elections both for MP and MLA, booth capturing has been resorted to in pockets even in the valley also, though mostly in the rural areas, as the area covered by a polling station is large.

In Imphal area, there are three or four polling stations in a single location and the crowd being large booth capturing is not easy and resistance from the voters can be very high and this intimidates those who are hired to do this work. But not so in the rural areas! But this time with the large number of both licensed and unlicensed guns in the hands of the civilians, there is high expectation that booth capturing will be resorted to especially in the rural areas and even in urban pockets including some portions of Imphal city.

There is bound to be resistance and the chances of violence and counter-violence seems high, especially in mofussil towns where the population density is high. There are already reports of intimidation of voters and party workers who had been intimidated so much so that even FIR had been lodged. Such intimidation may in the long run be counterproductive as those indulging in it may lose the trust of the public.


One major change observed this time is due to the ban on large gatherings and road shows, canvassing is carried out in small meetings, after praying to the local deities. This put tremendous pressure on the candidates who had to attend a number of such meetings at different parts of his constituency and with the limited number of days available after announcing the candidates put a toll.

Among the candidates in the Inner seat, only three are fully active though for the BJP candidate the canvassing is done in absentia. In the Outer seat, all the candidates are active in their sphere of influence though an independent candidate was harassed by armed persons. Due to the limited time and the ban on large gatherings, social media was used aggressively. The most unfortunate part is the fake narratives built up against certain candidates which took time to clarify. Some of the clips are prepared with care and hard hitting. With the digital media being used aggressively, clips of more than a decade old have resurfaced creating red faces among the senior leaders who are not consistent in their stand.

Among the star campaigners listed from outside for the two national parties, only Amit Shah, Union Home Minister had made a whistle stop to campaign for his party's candidate. Nothing new was mentioned and reiterated that the integrity of Manipur will be protected and if Modi is re-elected as PM the crisis in Manipur will be accorded priority. His statement that Manipur is free from corruption is bandied as the biggest joke of this year.

He made a spin that the fight is between those who want to destroy the state and those who want to protect it. This was spun further by the CM without realising that the report of the Reporters Collective published by Al Jazeera had indicated that as per the Assam Rifles, the major blame should go to the CM because of his handling of the matter, where he was seen as parochial. But one question is what are the likely changes anticipated when for 11 months the matter could not be settled when the party is in power in both Centre and State? What are the steps initiated and proposed to be initiated are left blank.

During his last visit in May-June 2023 he promised to return in a fortnight’s time to settle the crisis but never returned and came after 10 months only to canvas. As anticipated there have been opposition to his visit, with women folks stopping many who were transported to attend the meeting. But there was no reaction that those banning large gatherings did not even react indicating that they are in cahoots with the party in power. One fails to understand why a few policemen were so insistent in snatching the placard which reads “Our votes; our voices”?

Manipur does not figure in the BJP’s manifesto which is called “Modi ka Guarantee” making the whole election tamasha a personal agenda, confirmed by his 51 pictures in 71 pages. This indicates the priority the party accords to the crisis in Manipur. At least the INC has a sub-chapter on it though efforts were made to create a controversy due to the inability to understand the complex sentence and quoting by cherry picking.

The criticism by a semi-literate gentleman makes it all the more funny! UHM had not made any point which people would like to hear, protection of the village defence forces, NRC (which do not find a mention in the guarantee), etc though he talks of FMR, ILP, Border fencing, etc. Since the positives are limited it is Congress bashing all the way and how long will this diatribe continue  when they are in the helm of affairs for a decade in the centre and 7 years in the state.


The 2004 debacle after the failure of the “India Shining” campaign still continues to worry them.  The drumming of the projection that this time it will be 400+ is most unlikely as the Electoral Bonds issue is now a major scandal and can belittle the UPA scams of 2G scam, Coal scam, etc as this is an effort to systematically shakedown businesses and industries to finance their party election campaign. The gains likely in the south and West Bengal will be more than offset by losses in north India.

The threat to supporters of candidates this time is happening even in the heart of the city, in one case for being a convenor of a locality conglomerate which had taken a decision to follow ethical voting norms. The threat to the Congress candidate indicates that his opponents are most concerned about his candidature in the Inner seat and in fact his candidature led the ruling party to take a long time to decide on their candidate.

The arrest of a few volunteers from Kwasiphai and the formation of Administrative Committees for the PRIs are likely to affect the outcome though it has been reported that the members of the Administrative Committee had been directed to fulfil specified quota. The matter is now with the SC and whatever their contribution in the election, they are likely to go.

If one goes by the voting percentage in the last MP election, the chance of a candidate other than the BJP candidate is high but if one goes by the voting share of the BJP candidates in the 2022 elections, the Opposition has an uphill task.

However, there are conflicts within the ruling party as many MLAs are keen to see the end of the present CM and also to see that the Minister Education continues in his chair. The internal dissensions and squabbling within the party especially among the MLAs can be the doom. The use of technology in canvassing is a positive but it is hoped that intimidation is not resorted to and ethical voting is the standard so that democracy thrives in the state.

(The views expressed are personal)


First published:


election campaignsroadshowsbooth capturing

RK Nimai

RK Nimai

The author is a former bureaucrat, Imphal, Manipur


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