Manipur heads to elections with two similarities to the Assam polls months earlier — the BJP looking to unseat the Congress government and having won over key leaders of the ruling party.
What is different is the atmosphere on the streets, with blockades, counter-blockades and violence bringing Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh to Delhi, where he met the President and sought his intervention to ensure free and fair elections. The Congress had apparently been worried about the Centre imposing President’s rule, though the announcement of poll dates has ruled that out.
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What Himanta Biswa Sarma was to then Assam CM Tarun Gogoi and the Congress, N Biren was to Ibobi Singh and the Congress. Along with Biren, influential Congress leader Y Erabot too has joined the BJP.
But BJP national executive member K Joykishan has joined the Congress, in protest against the alleged indifference of the Centre to the crisis caused by road blockades.
The United Naga Council has called a highway blockade since November 1 protesting the creation of seven new districts. A series of government moves including the creation of new districts, aimed at wooing the Meiteis and some sections of tribals, has isolated the Nagas.
By the time the delegation led by Ibobi and Ramesh Chennithala — the head of a Congress panel for shortlisting candidates — election dates were already out. Sources said the delegation did tell the President they had sought the appointment because of reports about possibility of President’s rule being imposed in Manipur.
“We want free and fair elections in Manipur. The state is witnessing an insurgent problem. The central government should deploy more forces to ensure free and fair elections and bring normalcy in the state,” Chennithala told The Indian Express.
Ibobi said, “I am told that there is a negative report sent by the Ministry of Home Affairs to the Election Commission that the law and order situation in Manipur is not conducive to conduct a free-and-fair election. It is totally wrong and baseless.”