While most parties, voters, political observers, analysts, commentators, discussion panelists in local TV channels think the mandate of the 12th Manipur Legislative Assembly Election 2022 will be fractured, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has made a tall claim that they will form the next government securing more than 40 seats in the 60-Member Manipur Legislative Assembly.
All the rank and file of the BJP from its karyakartas to party president, from its candidates to Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren and national leaders from outside the state never stop claiming this wherever and whenever they get a chance to speak.
However, on the ground there is a general consensus among voters that no party will get the majority of 31 seats out of 60 in the 12th Manipur Legislative Assembly election. In contrast to this general feeling of public, the BJP is still confident of winning more than 40 seats in the 60-member House.
Not only the political analysts and observers but also the general public knows that the BJP in Manipur is not as strong as it was before the announcement of its candidates for the ensuing 12th Manipur Legislative Assembly Election 2022 scheduled to be held on February 28 and March 5.
Majority of the party members who contributed to the show of BJP’s strength in the political drama in Manipur for the ensuing Manipur Legislative Assembly Election 2022 have left the party with their supporters and followers, and joined other parties and are fighting against the BJP in many Assembly Constituencies.
It is open secret that even after the expulsion of its Chief Spokesperson Chongtham Bijoy; the Manipur State BJP still remains a divided house. It may be mentioned that Chongtham Bijoy told the media now and then after his expulsion that the party has many power centres not less than three.
Given the infighting in the rank and file of the party during nomination of party candidates for the ensuing Manipur election, BJP will not be able to win as many seats as they claim. Many disgruntled leaders have left BJP and joined the main opposition Congress, and BJP’s official allies the Janata Dal (U), the National People’s Party (NPP) and the Naga People’s Front (NPF).
Both NPP and NPF are part of the BJP-led government now but are fighting the polls separately. The enmity and rivalry between the BJP and NPP is so widen that the BJP has boasted openly that they will alone form the next government alleging that the NPP has been a hindrance in the present BJP-led government. The NPP also openly said that the BJP does not respect the coalition partner in the BJP-led Government in the state.
Even though BJP underplays the desertions of its leaders, claiming “friendly fights” with turncoats will not harm the party, many say that in those seats Congress will have an edge.
The Congress has formed a six-party alliance called the Manipur Progressive Secular Alliance with CPI, CPM, Forward Bloc, RSP and JD(S). Congress is fighting on 53 seats, leaving the rest to its allies.
The Congress is also confident of coming back to power after the upcoming state assembly election, Former Chief Minister and CLP leader Okram Ibobi said, “Out of the total candidates that we have put up (53), we know the potential of each one and we strongly believe in the winning capability of 40-45 of them.”
However, he said, “In case if we fall short of majority, there will be post-poll alliance with like- minded parties.”
On the other hand, disgruntled leaders from the BJP and defectors from the Congress seem to have catapulted the Janata Dal (United) into the big league of poll players in Manipur. Many BJP leaders being denied tickets were expected to move to the National People’s Party (NPP) which has its roots in Manipur and also partner in the BJP-led government in Manipur.
But many BJP leaders who were denied party ticket for the election have preferred to go to the JD(U), a constituent of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government at the Centre.
At least 15 sitting and former MLAs of the BJP and the Congress, and more leaders from these two parties have joined the JD (U). The defectors from BJP include MLA Kshetrimayum Biren, former MLAs Samuel Jendai and Khwairakpam Loken, former Chief Secretary O. Nabakishore and former Director-General of Police L.M. Khaute.
Congress MLA Khumukcham Joykishan, independent MLAs Ashab Uddin, Muhammad Abdul Nasir and former Congress vice-president Dwijamani are also contesting the polls on a JD (U) ticket.
The JD (U)’s poll strategy in Manipur appears to have been taken from its Arunachal Pradesh playbook. The party had mostly fielded candidates who were denied tickets by the BJP in that State’s 2019 polls. The JD (U) ended up as the second largest party, winning seven seats though six of them later returned to the BJP.
Notably, the NPP which has fielded in 38 seats is also confident of emerging as the most important political party in Manipur. Given the open enmity and rivalry between the NPP and the BJP, the chance of forming next government as coalition partner is very low.
“Today the NPP is one of the fastest growing parties in the country. We are a national party. We are truly a ‘Made in Northeast party’, people of the Northeast have made NPP with best vision and the seeds that have been shown for a much better Northeast, for the Northeast that would be able to compete with the rest of the world,” NPP National President Conrad Sangma said recently addressing an election rally in Manipur.
Meanwhile, Ram Muivah, Ukhrul Assembly Constituency candidate of the Naga People’s Front (NPF), the coalition partner of the present BJP-led government with its four members and is fielding for 10 Assembly Constituencies indicate that they will form the next government in Manipur with BJP.
However, relying on its growing party base in the last five years, BJP is going to the polls alone with the full confidence that they will get more than 40 seats. The BJP also declare that they will never have post poll alliance with any political party in the event of the party forming a new government in the state.
Considering the general pulse and feeling of general public and political observers, a fractured mandate for the 12th Manipur Legislative Assembly Election 2022 cannot be ruled out leaving the BJP’s tall claim of securing more than 40 seats a distant dream.
In the case of a fractured mandate like in the case of 2017 elections, the parties which are ready for a post-poll alliance have to form the next government in Manipur.
Senior Editor: Imphal Review of Arts and Politics