Manipur: Assembly elections

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Congress wins 28/ 60 seats, BJP 21

Oinam Sunil, Fractured mandate in Manipur a roadblock for main rivals, March 12, 2017: The Times of India

The region-wise performance of the parties in Manipur in the assembly elections of 2012 and 2017; Oinam Sunil, March 12, 2017: The Times of India

Manipur, which saw political instability for years until Congress came to power in 2002, once again gave a fractured mandate in the assembly polls. Congress, in power for three consecutive terms, managed to bag 28 of the 60 seats, while BJP won 21. In the 2012 election, the saffron party didn't win a single seat. All eyes are now on how Congress and BJP will stake claim to form government.Congress could try and win over Trinamool Congress, which has one seat, and an Independent, who is a Muslim. It may also try to rope in P A Sangma's National People's Party (NPP4 seats).

BJP is likely to bank on NPP, Ram Vilas Paswan's Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) and Naga People's Front (NPF), as all three are NDA allies. These parties together hold nine seats between them. Interestingly , LJP had supported Congress in the last government.

“Since Congress has emerged as the single largest party , we expect governor Najma Heptullah to call us to form government,“ a senior Congress member said. Reports said Congress was trying to rope in Independent Ashab Uddin with the help of senior Congress leader from Assam Rakibul Hussain.Many in Congress hope to get TMC support as Mamata Ba nerjee stridently opposes BJP.

Congress will still fall short of the halfway mark of 31. So will BJP , despite its three `al lies'. Relying on NPF could be a great risk as it is regarded an `untouchable' force because of its support for Naga integra tion, i.e. the unification of Naga-dominated areas of Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam with Nagaland.

In fact, PM Modi and home minister Rajnath Singh had promised to safeguard Manipur's territorial integrity .Sources said NPF may extend outside support to BJP.

What caught national attention, however, was the humiliating defeat of activist Irom Sharmila in Thoubal, Ibobi's constituency . She polled only 90 votes. Ibobi won defeating BJP's L Basanta by over 10,000 votes. None of Sharmila's People's Resurgence and Justice Alliance candidates won.

Gaikhangam, Congress's tallest Naga member, also retained his Nunga seat by defeating BJP's Adim Pamei by over 5,000 votes. Ibobi's son, Okram Surjakumar, and nephew, Okram Henry , won from Khangabok and Wangkhei.

Congress ministers -Hemochandra Singh, Moirangthen Okendro, Manga Vaiphei and Khumujam Ratankumar Singh -lost to BJP rivals.BJP winners N Biren Singh, a former Ibobi aide, and Thongam Biswajit Singh are likely to be the top contenders for the CM's post if BJP manages to cobble up a majority . Since Manipur attained statehood in 1972, it has seen fractured mandates in all polls except three. In 2012, Congress got clear majority by winning 42 seats. It had earlier hit the halfway mark in 1984 and 2007.

Okram Ibobi Singh forges hills-valley unity

Oinam Sunil, Marathon man Ibobi does it again, March 12, 2017: The Times of India

After 15 years in office, Okram Ibobi Singh has emerged as the only Congress CM to be able to resist the Modi wave. He put up a brave fight against anti-incumbency and the PM's direct attacks.

The CM, huddled with top Congress members, was unavailable for comment. He had earlier said the polls would be a referendum on the hills-valley unity: Congress bagged nine of the 20 seats in the hills, banking entirely on Ibobi to lead its campaign. “We told the high command that we will manage the election ourselves. We sought AICC vice-present Rahul Gandhi's service only after the PM joined the campaign,“ he had said on polling day.

The prominent issues here were the Naga Framework Agreement, economic blockade and corruption. Ibobi put up a tough fight on each. He took the calculated risk of creating seven new districts as anti-incumbency was working against him. Though the move displeased the United Naga Council, there are many Nagas who are part of the new districts. He also gained Kuki support with his decision. On the economic blockade called by UNC, he put BJP on the backfoot by questioning the Centre's sincerity in convincing the NSCN (I-M) that was openly backing the UNC.

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