Dr Moirangthem Nara Singh (69) of the CPI, who finished second in Inner Manipur seat in the last two parliamentary elections, has emerged as the main challenger this time for both the Congress and the ruling BJP.
While Dr Nara has been a popular figure in Manipur politics, he was never earlier seen as a real contender for the parliamentary seat. This despite the fact that the CPI has won Inner Manipur twice in the past.
Even leaders in the BJP admit that this time, the party is fighting against Dr Nara and not the Congress candidate, former Chief Secretary O Nabakishore. “The Congress candidate, despite being the former chief secretary, does not have the best reputation. But Dr Nara is putting up a stiff fight. The election will be between the BJP and CPI,’’ says a BJP leader.
Dr Nara admits that while he has always received love from the people, never before has he seen such outpouring of support. “There are a number of reasons. People have seen the defections in the last Assembly polls, opportunistic leaders shifting from one party to another. They support me this year because they know that being a Communist, I will stand by my principles.”
“There are a number of burning issues. The Citizenship Amendment Bill… the opposition to this Bill is high and people feel very strongly about it. The framework agreement for the Nagas is another issue. What happened in Manipur University when the state government got professors arrested for opposing the appointment and tenure of the V-C who is an RSS-BJP man… enraged many. This BJP government is now perceived as being anti-people,” said Dr Nara.
He contends that the people are “unhappy” with the present BJP government and consider the Congress “corrupt”. Hence, they are shifting allegiance to the CPI, he says.
But BJP and Congress supporters say the CPI does not have the organisational strength to pull off a win.
“This is not entirely true, we have 7,000 members in the state… voters have come forward… making my campaign largely crowdfunded,’’ said Dr Nara, who is a homoeopath by qualification.
His experience in politics is also an advantage when compared to the BJP and Congress candidates. “Unlike the other two, Dr Nara is a veteran politician… We had a lot of hope with the BJP but look at the Citizenship Bill issue and their Hindutva narrative,” said Thangmeiband resident Salam Santosh.
BJP Manipur state in-charge Nalin Kohli said, “We are confident of a win… We have made it clear that if the Citizenship Bill is brought, the government will look at Manipur’s concerns sensitively.”