Will PM Modi be able to sway voters in this conflict-stricken state?

Will PM Modi be able to sway voters in this conflict-stricken state?

Submitted by alvin on Wed, 2017-02-22 10:01 Prime minister Narendra Modi is expected to draw a huge crowd when he visits the election-bound state Manipur on February 25. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh is also scheduled to visit the state before the prime minister arrives on February 19. This is being seen as the last straw for the state BJP to make an impact, who otherwise have not been able to make much of an impression for the upcoming polls on March 4 and March 8. The only major success that BJP has managed to achieve so far is to get a few disgruntled / dis-satisfied Congressmen and other ambitious politicians into their party. The state is already witnessing brisk election campaigning and it is expected to reach its peak with BJP’s star campaigner Modi is expected to address the Imphal soon. Incumbent Congress Chief Minister, Ibobi Singh and his party will have to pull up their sleeves. Until now, Ibobi-led congress had an upper hand and is likely to make a come-back for the fourth consecutive term. Most (informal) pre-poll survey in the state points towards Congress or a Congress-led alliance. Even as the election wave is tilting towards Congress, Ibobi and his party will not have it easy, this time. In the recent years, Congress faced a major blow when there was a huge violent public uprising. The massive protest demanding the Inner line Permit System (ILPS) in the Imphal valley and the subsequent violent protest by tribals in the hills against passing of three ILPS related Bills in the state assembly in 2015 had shook the party. The current ongoing economic blockade along the national highways is another major blow for the Congress. This gives BJP an advantage to make an inroad.   Unlike other political party, the state BJP kicked-off the campaign much early. Party President Amit Shah was in the state as early as in September last year, though the BJP heavy weight accompanied by other party leaders could not make much of an impact. In the history of Manipur legislative assembly, BJP was never in power. This is an opportune time for the state BJP. The new government in the Centre, and obviously the Modi wave and the change of guard in neighbouring Assam would well provide an additional advantage for the state BJP. In an attempt to strike an emotional cord among the people in the valley, BJP has stuck to the popular slogan “territorial integrity.” As such, BJP star campaigners limit their visit to Imphal valley, with a major focus on the 40 seats out of the total 60 seats in the entire state. PM Modi’s visit as well as Home Minister Rajnath too will be limited to this 40 valley area seats. Considering this, campaigning by these two heavyweight personalities in the state indicates the state BJP’s weakness. Besides this, banking on a face from outside the state, could also prove wrong for the BJP as “anti-outsider sentiments” are high in a state like Manipur.   This is the second visit by the Prime Minister. The first was in 2014 shortly after he became the PM. His visit was then, cordial, pleasant, with his witty remarks and statements Modi was able to create a good rapport with the officials and the public at large in this Congress bastion. In this second visit, people will surely come out to welcome and hear the Prime Minister speak. But whether these will turn into votes remains to be seen. Manipur will be a complicated and difficult play-ground for PM Modi. In a state as divided as Manipur – geographically, ethnically, socio-politically, Modi will have to play his card very well. Particularly, on matters such as “Naga Talks” which is a hyper- sensitive case for Manipur. Modi had touched upon the matter immediately when he became prime minister. Now, Modi will have to answer to the people – both in the Hills and Valley. Ever-since he made the historic announcement of a breakthrough in the Naga Peace talk, in terms of signing the Framework Agreement in August 2015, there has been disquiet both in the state – both in the Hills and Valley. Apprehension abounds. While the Nagas wait to hear what is in store for them, in Manipur valley there has been an uneasy calm. The uneasiness would burst out in various forms and will follow actions- accusation against Modi. While the framework agreement of ILP and its contents – expected to bring a major development for the Nagas – remains a secret to the general public and also it did not bring any visible outcome for the Nagas. Nagas imposed an economic blockade since last November and continues until today.  Moreover, nine protesters were shot dead during the protest against passing of the Three ILPS bills in the state assembly in 2015. Their bodies still lay unclaimed in Churachandpur district. The BJP has remained silent so far over the issue. Manipur, in its history will see an interesting election this year. The two major national political parties in the country, BJP and the Congress for the first time will have a straight fight. Besides, there are other parties, such as the CPI-led Left Democratic Front, the Naga People’s Front, Trinamool Congress to watch out for, including independent contestants. Perhaps a minority party could well be a deciding factor. This election is expected to bring in some surprise.