The first phase of elections to the 11th Manipur legislative assembly begins on March 4, with polling in 38 constituencies spread across five districts – Imphal East, Imphal West, Churachandpur, Pherzawl, Bishnupur and Kangpokpi.
As many as 11, 19 271 voters are set to choose from among 168 candidates representing a number of national and regional parties. Only six of the candidates in the first phase of polling are women.
The two-phased elections – the next phase is on March 8 – are, however, going to see a keen contest for power between the two biggest national parties – the incumbent Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party. A state that witnessed perhaps the highest number of President’s rule, has had a Congress government under the chief ministership of Okram Ibobi Singh since 2002.
While Congress has a chief ministerial candidate in Ibobi, the BJP has decided to go to the polls with Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the party’s face.
While the BJP is going to the voters on the plank of development and opposed to “bandhs and blockade”, the Congress is trying to consolidate voter support in its favour on the basis of ethnic identity and promise to uphold “territorial integrity of Manipur.”
The state has been reeling under an economic blockade called by the United Naga Council (UNC) since November 1, after the state government decided to carve out seven new districts, many of which are from what the UNC claims to be the Naga ancestral land. The blockade is affecting the supply of essential commodities across the state.
In the valley districts, which has 40 of the state’s 60 assembly constituencies, the blockade is being seen by the majority community – the Meiteis – as an example of an ethnic assertion by the Nagas. Since the framework agreement between the Modi government and the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah), signed in 2015, is still not in the public domain yet, there seems to a widespread doubt among common voters about the Centre compromising the state’s territorial integrity by agreeing to the NSCN’s long-held demand for greater Nagalim, which comprises land from Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh besides Nagaland.
However, Modi and other senior BJP national and state leaders have reiterated many times that the party would not compromise the territorial integrity of the state. The election results on March 11 will show whether or not the voters were convinced by the prime minister’s words.
As the first phase of assembly elections in Manipur begins, The Wire takes you through the history of elections and power shifts in the northeastern state.
The Wire’s coverage of Manipur 2017
- Eighteen Months On, Rajnath Singh Assures CBI Inquiry Into Churachandpur Killings
- In Manipur’s Churachandpur, Tribal ‘Martyrs’ and a ‘Stolen’ Corpse Will Likely Sway the Elections
- Why Modi’s Jibes May Not Be Enough For BJP to Win Manipur
- Meet Najima Bibi, First Muslim Woman To Fight the Manipur Elections
- Tracing Irom Sharmila’s Struggle: From Years of Fasting To Seeking Votes To Repeal AFSPA
- In Manipur, a Battle Between Ethnic Identity and the Dream of Development
- Narendra Modi Is BJP’s Face For Manipur Elections: Bhabananda Singh
In this interactive graphic below, The Wire looks at the important statistics to keep in mind and which constituencies to look forward to. Read on.