They lost the race, by a narrow margin, but are still likely to emerge victorious. That’s the story of BJP, which failed to win a single seat in Manipur in 2012, and is now headed to form the next government.
Despite having the highest number of seats, 28 of the total 60, Congress, which ruled for the past 15 years, is unlikely to get support from the smaller parties, to reach the magic figure of 31 seats.
The BJP, on the other, hand, which got 21 seats, seems to have all the cards at its disposal and just needs to play them well. Party workers and leaders are already celebrating Holi.
This election was the most closely contested one in Manipur’s recent history and both sides, Congress and BJP, did their best to win the battle of perception to secure votes.
The ruling Congress tried blaming the Centre for the blockade of highways by United Naga Council and also raked up the 2015 Framework Agreement between New Delhi and NSCN-IM, trying to convey to voters that Manipur might lose territory, if the deal gets implemented.
The BJP, on its part, through high voltage rallies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, party chief Amit Shah and home minister Rajnath Singh, successfully managed to fend off the allegations.
Since law and order is a state subject, BJP leaders but the blame of failing to remove the four-month-old blockade at Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh’s door and also assured voters that Manipur won’t lose any territory.
The ruling chief minister, who has been at the helm since 2002, was also targeted. In his Imphal rally, Modi called him a “10% chief minister”, insinuating Okram Ibobi Singh took a commission for development work.
Despite being part of Nagaland Peoples Front-led government in Nagaland, the party stayed clear of any pre-poll alliance with the outfit in Manipur, keeping in view sentiments of Meiteis in the valley area.
NPF won four seats in the Naga-dominated hills areas, and the party is expected to give outside support to BJP. National Peoples Party, which won four seats and Lok Janshakti with one, are expected to join government.
The party’s Assam strategy, of weaning away Congress MLAs ahead of polls, however, had a fifty-fifty success rate. Three of the six Congress legislators, who switched sides, won—the other three lost.
Since no party secured majority, stability of the government could be a factor in coming days---something which the state hadn’t witnessed since 2002.