Facing a fast emerging BJP in the north-east, the Congress party exuded confidence of returning to power for the fourth time on the trot in Manipur. The on-going economic blockade is among the major issues in this election. Manipur votes in two phases on March 4 and 8.
Congress hopes to defeat the 3-term anti-incumbency and ride on the growing wave of anger over the economic blockade and apprehension about the state’s territorial integrity.
“We will win more than a two-thirds majority in the state. The people have understood very well the game plan of the BJP. They are hand in gloves with those who have called this blockade and are a threat to the territorial integrity of Manipur,” state Congress spokesperson KH Joykishan told the press.
Congress party’s campaign surrounds chiefly on the issues of blockade by the Naga groups and the NSCN-Centre agreement. Targeting the BJP-ruled Centre on both the issues, Congress has been alleging that it is hand in gloves with Naga groups.
Manipur has been reeling under the crisis of essential commodities due to major blockade, which at times turned violent, along its two highways – NH 2 and NH 37 — after Okram Ibobi Singh government’s decision to carve seven new districts from the existing ones, which mainly has Naga majority population.
The state government has claimed that the decision was taken to improve administrative efficiency.
It is also alleging that the BJP was hand in gloves with the Nagas and the Centre not disclosing the details of the framework agreement with NSCN (IM) may have implications on the territorial integrity of Manipur.
The BJP on the other hand, though agreed that the issues may factor in the polls, claimed Congress
is on a weak footing. “The Congress knew they would lose. That is why they took the decision of dividing the districts in order to flare up ethnic frenzy in the state,” a senior state BJP leader told the news agency PTI.
On the issue of Centre-NSCN (IM) agreement, the party has taken rather strongly to Congress’ allegations of compromising with the state’s territorial integrity, fielding Union Home minister Rajnath Singh to dispel what they term “canards” being spread against the BJP.
“This is absolutely baseless… I want to reassure all of you here that the central government and BJP will never ever compromise the territorial integrity of Manipur,” he said at a rally in Imphal.
Almost 65 per cent of Manipur’s population lives in Imphal Valley dominated by non-tribal Meiteis, while two major tribal groups — Naga and Kuki-Zomi — account for the remaining 35 per cent of the population scattered across the hills.
The Valley has nearly 40 seats, whereas the hills have 20 seats in the 60-member state assembly.