The North Eastern state of Manipur is scheduled to go to polls in two phases, first on March 4 and then on March 8. With a population of 0.26 crore and 60 Assembly seats, the state has seen the Congress government in power for the last 15 years with Okram Ibobi Singh in chief ministerial role since 2002.
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Geographically placed at the hinterlands of the country, Manipur has witnessed a harrowing history since independence that continues to plague its present in the form of internal disputes, issues of territorial integrity, economic blockades and of course the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act. However, despite the longstanding turmoil in the state, people of Manipur have a tendency to vote the same party to power, as has been the case in the past 15 years.
This year however, might be a challenge for the Congress to retain its position due to the inroads made by the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) in the state and also as a result of the Manipur government’s recent decision to bifurcate several of the hill districts in the state leading to widescale grievances, particularly among the tribes who fear the bifurcation would result in encroachment of their ancestral lands. Manipur in the past few months saw the imposition of economic blockades by the United Naga Council (UNC) as a mark of protest against the bifurcation of districts followed by extreme shortages of essential commodities and violence that crippled the common man. Adding to the already existing woes was the Centre’s move to demonetise Rs 500 and 1,000.
While the Congress and the BJP are the major players in the state, the other face to look out for, is that of Irom Sharmila who broke her 16-year long fast against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in Manipur. In October last year she formed the ‘People’s Resurgence and Justice Alliance’ which would be contesting in the upcoming elections, holding up strongly the issue of withdrawal of armed forces from the state.
Date of voting
Phase one- March 4
Phase two- March 8
Number of seats in the Legislative Assembly- 60
Ruling party- Congress
Chief Minister- Okram Ibobi Singh
Main candidates from opposition- N Biren Singh (BJP), Irom Sharmila (PRJA)