It was expected to be the biggest hurdle for the assembly polls. But in the end the four-month-old blockade of national highways by United Naga Council (UNC) failed to affect the election.
Polling took place without any major incident of violence and there was heavy voter turnout of over 86% in both phases in valley and hill districts.
But the allegations and counter-allegations by Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party on how each dealt with it and the message they were able to deliver to the voters did matter in the outcome.
Blockades aren’t new to Manipur. The state has witnessed many in the past years, some stretching several months. But this is the first blockade that continued over an election.
“In 2011 there was a 122-day long blockade when Congress was in power in the state and in the Centre. How come the state government didn’t blame New Delhi at that time?” questioned N. Biren Singh, senior BJP leader.
While ruling Congress tried to blame the BJP-led government at Centre for failing to do enough to end the blockade, the saffron party retorted by pointing out that law and order was a state subject.
“The way BJP leaders promised to end the blockade once it comes to power, made it clear they were behind instigation of the blockade and wanted it to continue for political gain,” state Congress president TN Haokip said.
As residents suffered and campaigning picked up, both parties tried to impress upon voters that the other was responsible for the blockade continuing for so long.
The first two months of the blockade, which started on November 1, were the most difficult, with supplies of essential goods and medicines running out in Imphal Valley and petrol and diesel sold at exorbitant prices in black market.
Situation eased in the weeks leading to the polls with convoys of trucks escorted by security personnel entering the state and additional fuel being brought by air.
However, there are fears in Imphal that the situation would change for the worse after the polls.
BJP had promised to end the blockade soon after coming to power. But with the state poised for a hung assembly, government formation would take time, and the blockade could continue.
“The blockade started as a result of the state government creating new districts without consulting Nagas. That decision needs to be reviewed, otherwise the blockade will continue,” UNC general secretary Milan Shimray told HT.