As the curtains fall for the anticipated Manipur Assembly Election 2017, lessons to be remembered and understood are aplenty. Modi’s BJP, Irom Sharmila and Ibobi Singh – the three protagonist and major takeaways.
It wasn’t a mandate for the BJP in Manipur, but a confused electorate that voted for a hung assembly, which was exploited by the ruling BJP at the centre. The tally was that the BJP had 21 seats while the Congress got 28 seats in the 60-member Legislative Assembly. To cover-up the inability to win more seats than the Congress which went on to become the single largest party, BJP talked about the surge in vote share from 2% in 2012 to 36% in 2017. But that logic doesn’t hold water for the following reasons: (a) it was never about the vote share but about who wins the maximum number of seats and in the scenario, BJP came a distant second. How they misused their influence and power is beyond comprehension but the fact remained that they flexed their muscles to form the government with a meagre 21 seats win should be the bottom line (b) 15 years of O. Ibobi Singh and the much touted Modi wave couldn’t decimate anti-incumbent wave against Ibobi. This is an important outcome which was shadowed by the news of rumoured kidnapping of the lone independent candidate and other defection news.
Lack of political space for women & Irom Sharmila
In the land of Nupi Lal (women’s war), a place where Asia’s largest women’s market-solely run by women-is located, a state which have produced Mary Kom and umpteen number of national sportswomen- not only do women hardly own land- but there is a conspicuous absence of political space for them.
Whilst an eminent and senior journalist Pradip Phanjoubam conclude that politics is more than a one agenda resistence campaign attributing AFSPA as not enough an agenda to win an election for Irom Sharmila in an article, how are we to answer the win of the lone independent candidate from Jiri constituency whose agenda was non-existent or the NPP win where things such as agenda were ill-illustrated or for that matter-the NPF victory whose sole agenda was closely associated with the creation of Greater Nagalim?
The wrong choice of constituency as pointed out by a few analyst doesn’t necessary explain why Irom Sharmila’s personal life and her relationship were despicable discussion among the young and the old so much so that loathsome posters of Irom Sharmila and Desmond Coutinho were doing the rounds among the Manipur youths in social media. When a women’s personal life is discussed more than the vision she stands for, it says volumes about the society and how it treats women. This is important for Manipur to acknowledge especially because the general assumption is that the status of women is relatively good.
And although supporters wish that Irom Sharmila contest in the 2019 Parliamentary election so that 90 votes doesn’t associate with her political endeavour, it should ultimately be her choice. The larger issue, however, is that women in political life should be encourage especially in Manipur, given the high status it claims to give its women.
by Halley Nongmaithem
Opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and TNT-The Northeast Today may not hold the same views
Featured image(courtesy): Hindustan Times