Exception in Manipur
By winning the Manipur assembly elections, the Okram Ibobi Singh-led government in Imphal has managed to buck the trend of a Congress in retreat, as may have been evident in the results in the Punjab and Uttarakhand polls.india Updated: Jun 27, 2007 00:59 IST
By winning the Manipur assembly elections, the Okram Ibobi Singh-led government in Imphal has managed to buck the trend of a Congress in retreat, as may have been evident in the results in the Punjab and Uttarakhand polls. But, perhaps, more importantly by winning 29 seats, one short of the majority required in the 60-seat Manipur assembly, the state Congress has fought off any anti-incumbency jitters that may have been present before the three-phase elections were held last month. In fact, this is the first time in its nine assembly elections history that a government in Imphal has managed to last out its whole term and win a second one.
The impressive voter turnout of 80 per cent meant that the elections were not devoid of issues. One did not hear any mention of the repeal of the dreaded Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), 1958, at any Congress pre-poll rally, but the lifting of the ‘disturbed areas’ description on seven districts could have given voters some hope for the future. Despite the courageous six-year hunger-strike protest against the AFSPA by Irom Sharmila, who continues to languish in a New Delhi hospital under police arrest, the atrocities committed by the armed forces in Manipur have yet to unnerve the Centre enough for the Act to be repealed. But like other smaller states, Manipur depends largely on central largesse, a possible reason for voters choosing a political alignment that rules in Delhi.
The other issue of Naga identity has seen the United Naga Council (UNC) floundering in the polls — despite ten Independents supported by the outfit winning. The divide between the hills and the valley, in terms of voters opinion on the Greater Nagaland issue, has seen to it that the UNC remains outside the mainstream polity. Unfortunately, the election results do not point to the woeful underdevelopment — especially in the power sector — that Manipur continues to suffer from, regardless of which party is in power. This is an irony for a state which came a close second (after the Services) in the recent National Games in Guwahati.