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Manipuris look towards Congress for succour

Congress leaders Angomcha Bimol Akoijam, representing the Meitei community, emerged victorious in the Inner Manipur constituency, while Alfred Kan-Ngam Arthur, a Naga, secured the Outer Manipur seat. 

News Arena Network - Imphal - UPDATED: June 10, 2024, 02:40 AM - 6 mins read

BJP leader and Manipur CM N.Biren Singh (L), Congress leader Angomcha Bimol Akoijam, who emerged victorious in the Inner Manipur constituency (R).

Manipuris look towards Congress for succour

BJP leader and Manipur CM N.Biren Singh (L), Congress leader Angomcha Bimol Akoijam, who emerged victorious in the Inner Manipur constituency (R).


The Grand Old party has re-established its dominance in the violence-torn state of Manipur, winning both the Inner and Outer Manipur Lok Sabha seats and defeating the BJP-National People's Party (NPP)-Naga People's Front (NPF) alliance. 

 

This victory comes after more than a year of ethnic violence that has claimed over 200 lives and deeply shaken the state.

 

Angomcha Bimol Akoijam, an associate professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru University's School of Social Sciences representing the Meitei community, emerged victorious in the Inner Manipur constituency, while Alfred Kan-Ngam Arthur, a Naga, secured the Outer Manipur seat. 

 

They defeated Thounaojam Basanta Kumar Singh and Kacchui Timothy Zimik from the BJP-NPP-NPF alliance, respectively.

 

Arthur, the newly-elected MP for Outer Manipur, has pledged his duty to work towards peace in the state.

 

When questioned about fostering harmony between the Meitei and Kuki communities, Arthur said he is commited as a citizen and elected representative to the state's betterment.

 

The ethnic clashes that erupted in Manipur on May 3 last year have continued to cause unrest.

 

The violence initially broke out after a 'Tribal Solidarity March' was organised in the hill districts to protest the Meitei community's demand for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status. 

 

Villages were attacked, homes were set ablaze, and shops were looted, leaving residents fearful for their safety. In the face of this violence, parents resorted to giving their children sleeping medicine to protect them from attackers.

 

The conflict centers around the Meiteis, who live in the Imphal Valley, and the Kukis, who inhabit the hills. While the Meiteis are the dominant ethnic group, the Kukis are one of the largest tribes.

 

Tensions between these groups have persisted for years, primarily revolving around land and population issues.

 

As of June 2024, sporadic violence still plagues parts of Manipur. Various civil society groups have accused the BJP government of not doing enough to curb the violence.

 

This discontent was reflected in the recent Lok Sabha elections, where the BJP's performance fell significantly behind that of the Congress.

 

In the Inner Manipur constituency, the BJP was defeated by a margin of 109,801 votes. In Outer Manipur, the party lost by 85,418 votes.

 

This is a stark contrast to the 2019 election, where the BJP's Rajkumar Ranjan Singh won Inner Manipur with 263,632 votes and the NPF's Lorho S Pfoze took Outer Manipur with 363,527 votes.

 

Reflecting on the 2024 election results, CPI Secretary K Shanta stated that the people of Manipur have shown a desire for peace and prosperity after enduring prolonged violence.

 

Public's lack of trust on government

 

The significant drop in the BJP's vote share indicates a loss of trust in the N Biren Singh-led government. Many BJP candidates faced rejection from an electorate disillusioned by the government's failure to maintain peace. The BJP's attempts to secure the Meitei vote by neglecting other communities' concerns only deepened the divide.

 

Criticism has mounted against N Biren Singh, not only for his government's inability to quell the violence but also for exacerbating Meitei majority sentiments. Narendra Modi, poised to take office for a record third consecutive term, has not visited the conflict-ridden state since the turmoil began, further fueling discontent.


Campaign weaknesses

 

Ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, campaign activities in Manipur were minimal. Frustrated voters disrupted campaign events, damaging Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and showing little interest in political rallies.

 

The Congress accused the BJP of failing to campaign out of respect for those suffering due to the violence. Instead, Congress candidates visited relief camps for those affected by the ethnic clashes.

 

The government's response to the violence has been heavily criticised. During last year's Monsoon Session of Parliament, the Opposition protested against the situation in Manipur. 

 

A disturbing video showing two women being paraded naked and groped by a mob caused nationwide outrage just before the session began.

 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the issue, expressing his distress and calling it shameful for any society, but this did little to quell the anger.

 

The central government's claims on women empowerment were undermined by the Manipur incident and other attacks on women. People lost faith in the state government and were disappointed that Biren Singh was not sacked despite the ongoing violence.

 

Members of the Kuki community called on the Centre to restore normalcy, expressing their loss of faith in the state government.

 

In June, nine BJP lawmakers from Manipur wrote to Narendra Modi, stating that the people no longer trust the state government.

 

Reports emerged that Biren Singh might resign, but locals tore his resignation letter and protested against his plan to step down. Biren Singh later clarified that he would not be quitting.

 

Differences within Manipur BJP 

 

Cracks within the Manipur BJP have also contributed to the party's downfall. The Manipur assembly replaced three MLAs from the Kuki community who served as committee chairmen, a move that did not sit well with the region's residents. 

 

BJP candidates were reluctant to contest in Kuki-dominated areas, opting instead to support the NPF candidate, which led to discontent among grassroots workers and demonstrations.

 

Additionally, ten tribal MLAs, including seven from the ruling BJP, demanded a separate administration for the Kuki-Hmar-Zomi dominated areas. They accused the state government of tacitly supporting the violence perpetrated by the Meitei community.

 

Promises of reconciliation

 

The Congress capitalised on these issues, with Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge highlighting the suffering of women and children and accusing the state government of neglect. The party promised to address the communal clashes and bring peace between the Kuki and Meitei communities.

 

In their manifesto, the Congress proposed setting up a reconciliation commission to address the issues politically and administratively, aiming to restore peace. They also pledged to replace the current government and tackle the ongoing problems in the state.

 

The recent Lok Sabha elections in Manipur highlighted significant shifts in the political landscape, reflecting voter dissatisfaction and a desire for change. The Congress's sweeping victory in both the Inner and Outer Manipur seats signifies a clear message from the people: the need for peace, stability, and inclusive governance.

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