Emergence of other political parties Importance of others
The first phase of the election is over and while all eyes will definitely be on the 22 seats which will go to polls on March 5, one question that has been doing the round is who will be the next Chief Minister if the BJP returns to power. Will Manipur follow the Assam model and see a new face as the next Chief Minister is one question that started gaining currency after the Central leadership preferred not to project anyone as the Chief Ministerial candidate in the Assembly election. Not clear whether such an approach will help the saffron party or not, but this has already set tongues wagging and making things all that more interesting is the fact that some prominent publications in other parts of the country had gone ahead and published stories on the likely development. The press in Manipur has generally kept off the matter, for speculation on this point may not exactly be healthy, but this has still not stopped tongues wagging on whether N Biren Singh will return as the Chief Minister, provided the BJP returns to power or whether Manipur will see a new Chief Minister. All these questions are subject to the condition that the BJP returns to power. Apart from whether Manipur would see a new Chief Minister after the election or not, another interesting question doing the round is how many seats the prominent political parties are likely to bag after the results are announced. As noted here in earlier commentaries, it is interesting to see that the war of words or verbal duel has been given a new definition with the NPP giving it back word for word to the BJP, though the two parties are partners in the current Government. This is best seen in the repeated claim made by the Chief Minister himself and the State unit president of the BJP, Sharda Devi that the BJP is looking to bag at least 40 seats and be in a position to form the Government on its own. On the other hand, the NPP has been going to town asserting that it will win at least 20 seats and emerge as the single largest party after the Assembly election. The Congress too has been claiming that it will bag more than 20 seats and looking at the calculations of the three major political parties, it looks like Manipur has more than 60 seats in the Assembly ! The reality however is, no one can afford to write off the JD (U) and the NPF, which can play crucial roles in Government formation after the election result is announced.
King makers, that is what some political parties such as the JD (U) and the NPF can emerge as. So far the NPF has been keeping a low profile and staying off from opening its mouth but none can ignore the tremendous influence it has in the Naga dominated districts. The interesting question is whether it can better its tally of 4 secured in the 2017 Assembly election or not. To the staunch supporter of the NPF, the party will surely better its showing from 2017, thereby meaning that it will bag more than 4 seats this time. Tough to say with the BJP and the Congress posing tough fights in the Naga dominated districts. The presence of the JD (U) cannot be written off too that easily. The importance of the JD (U) can be seen when one looks at some of the ‘interesting’ Assembly Constituencies. One day after the poll and it is more than clear that the JD (U) managed to send strong candidates in some ACs such as Thangmeiband, Yaiskul, Jiribam, Sagolband etc. This says something significant about the winning prospects of the many who were looked over by the BJP when it announced the list of its candidates. Despite its tall talks and the indirect exchange of words with the BJP, the NPP is another party which can have a decisive say in Government formation. The question is whether the present coalition will continue into the next Government or not. It is also interesting to note that in the five years that they supped together in the same Government, no moves were initiated to merge any of the smaller but significant parties with the BJP. The lone LJP MLA remained with the LJP and it was only at the fag end of the last Assembly that he moved to the BJP. Same is the case with the NPF, NPP and the lone Independent MLA from Jiribam AC.