Gearing up for Lok Sabha polls Sort of a referendum

In more ways than one the outcome of the Lok Sabha elections, at least in the Inner seat, will be a sort of a referendum on the conduct of the BJP led Government at Imphal. The silence of the Prime Minister continues, even after more than 10 months of the clash first erupting on May 3, 2023,  the BJP led Government at Imphal does not seem to have any clue on how to deal with the violence, thousands continue to survive in the numerous relief centres set up across the length and breadth of the State, many are still missing and over 200 people have been killed. It is against this reality that Manipur will go to polls in two phases, on April 19 and April 26 with the results set to come out on June 4. Apart from the ongoing ethnic clash, the BJP led Government should also be answerable for the stark absence of the rule of law all over the State. This is something which can easily be seen from the emergence of numerous power centres and the creation of a free for all environment, with the latest example coming from the open vandalisation and looting of a fuel pump at Sekmaijin Hangun, Imphal West. The question is, will voters in the Inner Parliamentary Constituency go for the BJP candidate in the hustings or will it be a case of the Opposition, particularly the Congress, emerging as the benefactor. Early days, but these are questions which must have already started haunting the saffron party here, but expect the ‘resources’ within the BJP to come out with scripts which may just offset the narratives that have been spelt out adding that extra dose of spices to the election. In as much as the BJP may be lampooned for the sheer indifference shown by the Prime Minister, the inept handling of matters  by Imphal, the saffron party can still trump what it would call, measures taken to safeguard the interests of Manipur and her people, most notably the recent decision to suspend the Free Movement Regime along with the announcement that the entire length of the Indo-Myanmar border would be fenced. Add the oft repeated NRC line from the State Government and these are all points which can be used as trump cards by the saffron party. Plus it is more than certain that it would hark back to the time when the Inner Line Permit System was extended to Manipur which automatically exempted the State from the purview of the Citizenship Amendment Act. This is where it would be interesting to see the course to be charted by the Congress to blunt the supposed trump cards of the saffron party.
The interests that the impending Lok Sabha elections has kicked up is in a way unprecedented, at least in the last three/four Parliamentary elections. The reason should not be far to seek. This is the first time that Manipur will go to polls to send its representatives to Parliament under the long shadow of the ethnic clash which erupted more than 10 months back. How people vote on April 19 and April 26 will reflect what lessons they have learnt from the past nearly 10 months. Much will also depend on how the different political parties are able to make sense of the fallouts of the ongoing clash. The prospects of all the political parties, particularly the Big Two-the BJP and the Congress-will also depend on the number of candidates in the fray. Which of the Big Two political parties stand to gain more if there are more candidates in the fray ? The very fact that this question is being raised should tell so many stories and one wonders if the different political parties and the intending candidates have given any thought to this. This is about the Inner Parliamentary Constituency and in the Outer Constituency the equation could be different. In the Naga dominated districts one important issue will obviously be the ongoing political negotiation between the NSCN (IM) and the Government of India while in the Kuki-ZO dominated districts it will be the question of a Separate Administration, the uncertain status of the Suspension of Operation pact, the ongoing ethnic clash etc. It is amid this reality that voters of 8 Assembly Constituencies which are located in the valley districts but fall in the Outer Constituency will get to play a key and critical role.