Anxious wait for poll verdict

                 MANIPUR could be on the verge of turning over a new leaf in its political history on Saturday when counting of votes cast in the two phases of assembly elections on March 4 and 8 for the 60 assembly seats takes place. Ever since the early days of the campaigning, leaders of major political parties, particularly the ruling Congress and the BJP, have been predicting victory even as other leaders too have been claiming that theirs would be playing an important role in the formation of the next government in the state, in case there is a hung mandate. While it was comparatively smooth sailing for the Congress party in the last two assembly polls, the election for the 11th Manipur Legislative Assembly had witnessed the BJP going on the offensive against the incumbent government with various charges and allegations ranging from corruption, administrative incompetency to adopting divisive policies. The Congress leaders too did not relent under the BJP blitzkrieg as it accused the latter of abetting the on-going economic blockade of the UNC, in addition to constantly raking up the June 2001 calamitous incidents to hold the saffron party responsible for the death of many precious lives and branding the BJP leaders at the centre as threats to the territorial and emotional integrity of Manipur when the Union government inked the ‘framework agreement’ in August 2015.

            While it were the rhetoric between the BJP and Congress campaign leaders that dominated the electioneering, other national and regional political parties as well as newly floated political entities also had their share in the mudslinging game with their tirades mostly directed against the two front-runners. Post-voting all the political organisations are either claiming victory for their respective parties or that they would be the decisive factor in the formation of the next government, thus raising the anxiety level for candidates higher than usual this time. Considering the fact that prominent political figures have been predicting to emerge triumphantly after the exhaustive electoral duel, it is comprehensible that for major political parties the biggest fear is that the assembly election results will throw up a hung house for cobbling up post-poll alliance will be an even trickier task on account of differences in ideologies, principle and objectives. Of the 60 assembly seats, the fate of the next government is likely to be decided by the trend of voting in the valley and hill assembly constituencies as it was clear during the run-up to the elections that there were no similarities in the issues concerning the hill and valley settlers. Though assembly segments in the hills were traditionally considered as Congress stronghold in the past and were vital factors in deciding the fate of one of the oldest political organisations of the country, this time around the race for the 20 seats in the hills was deprived of the Congress aura owing to threat by armed outfits as well as civil society organisations audaciously announcing their hostile attitude and stand against the ruling party.

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