With vibrant and glorified past, Manipur came under the British establishment as a Princely State after the defeat in the Anglo-Manipuri War of 1891. Post independence, Manipur, which is also known as the Jewel of India, was merged with the Indian Union on October 15, 1949. It got the status of a full-fledged state on the January 21, 1972 with a 60-member Legislative Assembly of which 20 seats being reserved for Scheduled Tribes and one for the Scheduled Cast. The state has two representatives in the Lok Sabha and one in the Rajya Sabha.

Major issues

The economic blockade and the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) are the two major issues which are dominating this year’s poll campaigns in the state. Boundary dispute with its neighbouring states, corruption, political conflicts between the insurgent groups and the government, rampant drug abuse among youths and ethnic identity of local tribes are other important matters which may be factored in during the polls in the state.

There has been a separatist movement in Manipur since 1964 with the formation of United National Liberation Front (UNLF) and the other violent insurgent groups which have waged war against the government to seek sovereignty for the region. The two ethnically conflicting tribes Kukis and Nagas dominate 20 percent seats of the 60-member state assembly while Meiteis, majority ethnic group of the state, grabs 80 percent seats in the House. Interestingly, the Chief Minister Ibobi Singh himself comes from the same tribe. The state has been witnessing deep-rooted violent conflicts between the Nagas and the Kukis for the past many decades.

Present political scenario

Given the high chances of victory of the ruling Congress for 10th state assembly, most of the aspiring candidates are craving for the party’s tickets. The political dominance of the Congress in the state is not because of its popularity amongst the people. Other stark reality is that the people are not influenced by the political parties. The qualification and good track record of candidates may increase their chances of victory.

The ruling Congress, which is in power in the state for the last two consecutive terms since 2002, is trying for a hat-trick. But the ongoing insurgency and memories of hardships during last year's 120-day long blockade are threatening to upset its game.

Main Opposition party Manipur People's Party (MPP) has struck an alliance with Nationalist Congress Party, Janata Dal (United) and state unit of the Rashtriya Janata Dal for the upcoming state election.

Contrary to the multi-party politics prevalent in most parts the country enabling numerous political parties to contest elections both at the national and state levels, Manipur seems to follow somewhat a single party system. However, no political party other than Congress is dominant in the state politics. Usually it has been seen that the dominance comes only with the party which is in power in the Centre.

Women’s low representation

The lone woman legislator O Landhoni, the wife of Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh, is contesting as a Congress nominee from her native Khangabok seat in Thoubal district.
Fourteen women candidates are in the fray out of which 10 are from the four valley districts and the remaining from the hilly districts. So far, the assembly has seen only four women MLAs including the sitting member Landhoni since 1972 when the state assembly came in existence, the other former MLAs are Keisham Apabi Dev, Hamingla Shaiza, and Wahengbam Leima Devi.

Among 14 women candidates contesting this time, three are from Congress, two from Manipur State Congress Party, one each from BJP, CPI (M) and Trinamool Congress whereas only six women candidates were in the fray in the last 2007 elections.

Political observers believe that the main contest for the forthcoming polls would be between the Congress and the alliance of MPP, JD (U), NCP and RJD combine.  They say that the opposition alliance will throw challenge to the Congress over the issues like Manipur's boundary dispute with its neighbours, corruption, political conflict (insurgent groups and the government), drug abuse and conflict among local ethnic groups.

The Secular Progressive Front has fallen apart, with the Communist Party of India walking out and deciding to contest 23 seats on its own. CPI had won four seats in the last election.

This time, 279 candidates, including 14 women, are in the fray for the 60-member assembly. While the Congress is contesting all the 60 seats, Trinamool Congress and Manipur State Congress Party have fielded 47 and 27 candidates respectively. The Nationalist Congress Party and Manipur People's Party are contesting 22 seats and 14 seats, respectively. The BJP has fielded its candidates on 19 seats and Naga People's Front is fighting on 12 seats.

JPN