Acrimonious battle for power

             WITH campaigning by different political parties getting intensified and the blame-game involving prominent figures, in the run-up to the March 4 and 8 assembly polls, nearing its crescendo there is little to doubt that the race for the 11th Manipur Legislative Assembly will be one of the most bitterly contested battles ever witnessed in the state. From the national perspective the assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh is definitely drawing maximum attention of the political analysts as outcome of the seven-phase polling has the potential to be a game changer for the next parliamentary elections, on account of highest number of parliamentarians being elected from the politically sensitive northern state. Compared to UP, Manipur may be minuscule in geographical size and population and even voices of its MPs go unnoticed. However, going by the way political heavyweights have been joining the campaign for their respective parties, electioneering in Manipur is inferior to neither UP nor the three other states, where voters have already exercised their franchise rights or will be casting in the coming days, in terms of political drama and issues which the politicians would prefer to rake up to draw the voters’ attention. As soon as the election commission announced the election schedule for the five states, it was obvious that the political potboiler in Manipur will be full of action, emotional drama and dialogues comparable to any hit movies.

                 The upcoming elections, which is narrowing down to a fierce showdown between the ruling Congress and the BJP, will be battle to decide who will rule Manipur in the next five years. Amid intense bickering on varied issues, the BJP campaign had seen Prime Minister Narendra Modi mincing no words in criticising the Manipur government for lack of initiatives to develop the state in the 15 years of rule by the Congress party in a recent election meeting, even though chief minister Okram Ibobi wasted little time in responding to the tirades by hurriedly convening a press conference and countering the PM’s criticism with the assertion that Manipur has seen tremendous improvement in the sectors of healthcare and power supply. Among other issues, Congress and BJP are locked in a battle of words over the framework agreement, economic blockade of the UNC, corruption charges, threat posed to the state’s territory and law & order situation. The ruling Congress had been exploiting the framework agreement as a potential tool to corner BJP as people of the state, especially in the valley where 40 out of 60 seats are located, are sensitive on the issue of territorial integrity of Manipur. Narendra Modi’s assertion that the agreement has nothing detrimental to Manipur’s interest seems to have literally taken the wind out of the Congress’ sails. However, some civil society and student’s organisations insisting that mere verbal assurance on the sensitive issue will not suffice and that the Centre should share details of the pact in the public domain suggests that the framework agreement will continue to take centre-stage, at-least till the election process is complete.

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