How will voters in the 13 vacant ACs vote ?
Countdown to by polls
The interesting question is how voters in the 13 vacant seats of the State Assembly will vote when by elections are held. A certain sense of urgency has been given to the by elections as the Election Commission of India has already made it clear that by elections to 65 Assembly/Parliamentary seats spread across the country will be held along with the Bihar elections. And significantly the Assembly elections in Bihar are required to wind up before November 29 and this is what has given a sense of urgency here, with 13 Assembly seats vacant, either after the incumbent MLAs resigned or were disqualified. Early days yet, but it is more than indicative that to many the by elections to the 13 Assembly seats will somewhat be like a semi-final before the big final in the 2022 Assembly elections. As in the earlier round, that is the 2017 Assembly elections, the fight will be seen mostly as one between the ruling BJP here and the Congress which did rather well in the 2017 Assembly elections winning 28 seats. That many of its MLAs deserted the Congress ship is another matter, but it is significant to note that of the 13 MLAs who are no longer in the Assembly, at least ten of them had earlier been elected in 2017 as Congress candidates. Will Manipur see a repeat of the 2017 Assembly elections and send back the 13 MLAs to the House or will there be new faces, is the question doing the round. In a way this will also be the litmus test for the ruling BJP, in that the scheduled by elections will be the first test of at least 10 MLAs who had jumped ship to the saffron party. Much will depend on how well the ruling dispensation is able to take the people along and that will only be known when D day comes.
In many ways the scheduled by elections will also be a test of some sort for the electorate. Will they demonstrate that they will continue to support their men, never mind which party’s hat they wear ? Or will the by election be seen as the opportune moment for them to show that their verdict cannot be taken for granted by those elected. Another important question would be whether those who resigned consulted their people/supporters before they put in their papers or whether it was an individual choice. There will be no easy answer here, for in politics, as in life, not everything will come in black and white and there will be many shades of grey. The Congress on the other hand will see the coming by elections as the opportune moment to turn the tide and once again portray itself as a party which has not lost its moorings. This will be a tough line to call, for remember their MLAs resigned to sup with the saffron party and this is a decision which would not have been taken at the spur of the moment, but must have been a well thought out strategy with an eye on the future. Early days yet but one can certainly see the two principal political parties gearing up to put their best foot forward and certainly election fever during the time of COVID-19 can only make the coming days more interesting.