BJP wins with clear majority in Manipur

The state tends to vote for the party in power at the Center like other small states in the Northeast region,
and it seems to have done it this year too.

Sakshi Sinha

The Bhartiya Janta Party is all set to return to power in Manipur after winning a clear majority with 32 out of 60 seats.

National People’s Party (NPP), which ran separately, won seven seats, Janata Dal (United),  6, and Congress and the Naga People’s Front (NPF) won five seats each. The Kuki People Alliance won both seats in the elections for which it competed: Singhat and Saikul. The Kuki People Alliance was recognised as a political party only two months ago, and was formed to represent the interests of the Kuki tribe.

The Congress, which was the single largest party in the 2017 elections with 28 seats, failed to form the government as BJP cobbled together an alliance with NPP and NPF. This year the party has been relegated to the joint fourth position.

According to figures from the Election Commission of India, the BJP received 37.83 percent of the vote, while the NPP received 17.29 percent. The Janata Dal (U) received 10.77 percent of the vote, while the Congress received 16.83 percent. NOTA was used by 0.56 percent of the state’s residents and the Naga People’s Front received 8.09 percent of the vote.

Growth of BJP

In 2017 assembly elections, BJP had won 21 seats and Congress had won 28 seats, however, BJP had formed the govt for the first time in the north-eastern state by forming an alliance with National People’s Party, Naga People’s Front and the Lok Janshakti Party. Moreover, in the last five years the BJP’s number had gone up in the assembly later as several MLAs in the house had switched sides, including several Congress MLAs who had joined BJP.

This year, however, there was no pre-poll alliance, due to differences over  Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).NPP, NPF and JD(U) had decided to contest the polls separately in the state.

Despite this, BJP has won 32 seats, and will not need any support or alliance to form a government in the state. The CM called the win a “historic victory”, and said that it is a testament of the people’s faith in the dynamic leadership of PM Narendra Modi and citizen centric governance.

BJP’s three main poll planks of peace, development, and stability have resonated with voters. It has been in stark contrast to the tumultuous 15-year Congress rule under Okram Ibobi Singh, which was marked by bandhs and blockades and an escalating spate of extrajudicial killings.

Despite the strong opposition to the controversial law, AFSPA, 1985, among the people of the state, these parties failed to capitalize on it. There were calls for repealing the act that grants special powers to the armed forces after the Indian military mistakenly killed 13 civilians in a botched up operation against terrorists in Nagaland.

Decline of congress:

While the BJP witnessed a significant increase in support in the state over the last election, the Congress suffered a significant decline in support. Congress has only managed to win 5 seats this year, compared to 28 seats in 2017. In the previous five years, the Congress party has experienced a number of defections in Manipur, and the  party’s overall downturn in the country has also been reflected in the state. While the Congress was the single largest party in the House in 2017, the recent five years have been particularly challenging for the party, with its MLA base declining from 27 to 13.

In spite of differences with partners NPF and NPP, both of whom ran candidates against BJP, the party may engage with both during government formation. Biren Singh told PTI “the alliance is a matter the central leadership will decide.” While other party officials said that both partner parties have reached out offering support to the BJP.

What Did the People of Manipur Vote For?

What the people of Manipur stressed when voting has no clear answer. The BJP made no mention of removing the AFSPA in the state, which is a contentious subject as well as a political demand that has grown in popularity over time.

The promises made in the last election’s party manifesto have yet to be fulfilled, and there is no sign that anything in their manifesto this time will be fulfilled.

Given how major insurgent groups such as the United National Liberation Front (UNLF) and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), among others, have refused to engage in peace talks with the Central government for decades, Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s last-minute election rally in the state raised many eyebrows with his statement that the Central government will engage in peace talks with all insurgent groups.

The state which has had a long history of insurgency with rival groups with rival aims operating in both the valley where the Meitei dominate, and the hills where Tangkhul Nagas dominate, has long been yearning for peace.

However, BJP did initiate many programs, such as Go To Hills and Hill Leaders Day, in an attempt to bridge the long-standing divide between the Meitei-dominated Hills and the tribal valley, which seemed to worsen during Ibobi’s reign. While the efficacy of these measures on the ground is unclear, there is no doubt that the social divide between the hills and valleys has narrowed.