Analysing Manipur’s political landscape Trends, alliances, and challenges in the general elections


The Indian Parliament operates as a bicameral institution with two houses: Lok Sabha (lower House) and Rajya Sabha (upper House). The Lok Sabha serves as the primary chamber, representing the entire populace of India, with members elected through universal adult suffrage. Its inaugural election in 1951/1952 saw 489 seats contested, with the Congress party securing 364 seats and Jawaharlal Nehru assuming the post of the first Prime Minister. Subsequently, the 2019 Lok Sabha elections marked the 17th General Elections in the country, involving 552 seats, of which the BJP won 303 seats, leading to Narendra Modi’s appointment as Prime Minister.
The Lok Sabha, with a maximum membership of 552, comprises up to 530 members elected from various Constituencies across Indian States. These members, known as Members of Parliament (MPs), are elected from States and Union Territories. Elections to the Lok Sabha are held every five years under the framework of General Elections, following universal adult franchise as stipulated in Article 326 of the Indian Constitution, amended in 1988 to lower the voting age from 21 to 18. Notably, the provision for nominating two members from the Anglo-Indian community, previously in effect, was extended until 2020 by the 95th Amendment Act, 2009 but has since been discontinued as per the Constitution (104th Amendment) Act, 2019.
Representation from Union Territories in the Lok Sabha is determined by Parliamentary discretion, with direct elections facilitated by the Union Territories (Direct Election to the House of the People) Act, 1965, allowing for a maximum of 20 representatives from these regions.
The electoral framework is governed by Part XV of the Constitution of India, which grants the Election Commission the authority to oversee and regulate elections at various levels, including Parliament, State Legislatures, and offices such as the President and Vice-President.
Articles 325 and 327 provide inclusivity in electoral rolls and empower Parliament to legislate on election matters. Article 329 acts as a safeguard, limiting Court intervention in electoral disputes and directing challenges through election petitions, thus ensuring the smooth functioning of the electoral process.
General Election Trends, Manipur
Manipur has participated in the General Elections since independent India held elections in 1951/1952. From then onwards, only two Constituencies have been allocated for Manipur: Inner (General) and Outer (reserved ST), and one seat each, respectively. While there are 32 Assembly segments in the Inner Manipur Lok Sabha Constituency, the Outer Manipur Lok Sabha Constituency comprises 28 Assembly segments. Eight Constituencies in Thoubal, Kakching and Jiribam districts can only cast their votes. Still, they cannot stand for elections in the Outer Manipur Lok Sabha Constituency. The lone seat is reserved for the Scheduled Tribe (ST). The eight Constituencies are Heirok, Wangjing Tentha, Khanga-bok, Wabgai, Kakching, Hiyanglam, Sugnu and Jiribam.
From the Table, we can discern a few trends:
1. The dominance of the Indian National Congress (INC): The INC appears to have
been a dominant party in Manipur for several decades, with candidates from the INC winning multiple elections in both Inner and Outer Manipur Constituencies. So, what has the INC done for Manipur, is a question, educated Manipuris are asking.
2. Voting Turnout : The voting turnout fluctuated over the years, ranging from around 48.86% in 1971 to as high as 85.75% in 1984. Overall, there is an increasing trend in voter turnout over time (CAGR of 3.53%), with occasional dips.
3. Rise of Independent Candidates : While SP and MSCP have become defunct and MPP is a spent force, one must recognise the independent candidates. They have won on three occasions, the most recent in 2004. However, their presence diminishes over time, and party politics becomes more prevalent.
4. Variation in Party Success: While the INC remains a significant player, other parties such as the Socialist Party (SP), Communist Party of India (CPI), Manipur Peoples Party (MPP), Manipur State Congress Party (MSCP), and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) also won seats in different election cycles, indicating a degree of political diversity in Manipur.
5. Shifts in Party Alliances: There are instances of candidates switching parties or forming new parties, which reflect the fluidity of political alliances and strategies in Manipur’s electoral landscape.
6. Recent Emergence of BJP and NPF: The data also illustrates the emergence of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Naga People’s Front (NPF) as winning parties in Manipur, particularly in the 2019 elections, where Dr RK Ranjan Singh won in the Inner Manipur constituency, and Lorho S. Pfoze won in the Outer Manipur Constituency.
7. Incumbency and Retention: Meijinlung Kamson holds the record for winning the
General Elections four times from the Outer Manipur Constituency. N Tombi Singh, Thounaojam Chaoba Singh, and Dr Thokchom Meinya are the only candidates who have won the general elections three times, all from the Inner Manipur Constituency.
Winning multiple elections, consecutively, indicates a level of incumbency advantage or voter support.
8. Kim Gangte’s Record: Kim Gangte is the only woman, a Kuki woman, who has won the general elections in Manipur.
9. Ethnic Variation in Outer Manipur Constituency: While the Naga candidates have won ten times in the Outer Manipur Constituency, Kuki candidates have won seven times.
Overall, these trends suggest a dynamic and evolving political scenario in Manipur, characterised by the dominance of certain parties, the emergence of new players, and shifts in party alliances over time.
General Elections 2024
The Lok Sabha elections in Manipur will be held in two phases: the first phase of polling will be held on April 19, and the second phase will be on April 26. A total of 20,26,623 electors (male - 48.34%, female - 51.65% & third sex - 0.01%) are expected to exercise their franchise. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, there was a total of 19,39,244 electors (male - 48.649%, female - 51.349% & third sex - 0.002%) with a healthy turnout of 82.69%. The third gender population (electors) have increased from 45 in 2019 to 239 in 2024. Like in the previous election, there are more women electors than males. Therefore, learned candidates, be nice to the ladies. Moreover, while the 27-Moirang Assembly segment had the highest number of electors (35745), the 13-Singjamei Assembly segment had the lowest number of electors (19918). This trend continues.
In the upcoming elections, besides focusing on development initiatives, the two main political party coalitions, INC-led INDIA Bloc Manipur and BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), will be vying for stability, harmony among ethnic groups, and the preservation of Manipur’s territorial integrity within the Inner Manipur Lok Sabha Constituency. Given the despair of the internally displaced peoples and the level of militarisation on account of the ethnic strife, one can expect election interference by armed miscreants.
Nevertheless, it may be a straight fight between sitting MoS Dr RK Ranjan Singh (BJP) and rookie Dr Angomcha Bimol Akoijam, who has staked his academic career on the INC ticket.
There is also an anti-incumbency factor against Dr RK Ranjan Singh. Unfortunately, his house at Kongba was set alight by a mob in May 2023. BJP shall be treading on the razor’s edge and is expected to exercise the party whip to deploy its sitting MLAs and workers to mobilise for Dr Ranjan. However, kindly note that the BJP is yet to publicise its candidate.
Dr Bimol is a social media warrior with a large online following. He is a rising star charming the public (Meiteis) with his academic takes, and people praise him for his “ability to engage with the National media”. Unfortunately, he is not rooted in grassroots politics.
Therefore, Bimol’s electoral success depends on former Chief Minister Ibobi Singh, who shares ancestral origin with the aspiring candidate. Congress insiders call it “Thoubal Politics”.
Regarding the Outer Constituency, the BJP will not be fielding its candidate. Instead, it has declared to back NPF candidate Kachui Timothy Zimik, a former Indian Revenue Service officer, as a part of the NDA pact. NPF shall be riding on the issues of Naga’s political future. Likewise, suppose there are candidates from the Kuki community. In that case, they shall be voicing “separate administration” to get the Kuki people’s mandate. However, unlike in 2019, the BJP has withdrawn support to Kuki candidates.
How much militarisation has affected the daily lives of Manipuris is evident from armed miscreants firing indiscriminately during the party/election meetings of INC candidate Alfred K Arthur. This incident is not the first armed outfits to interfere with Arthur’s political aspirations. One can expect similar electoral interferences by armed Kuki militants in their dominant areas. However, as usual, electors from eight Assembly segments in the valley area shall decide the electoral outcome in the Outer Manipur Lok Sabha Constituency.
INDIA Bloc Manipur, a constitution of eight political parties active in Manipur, has projected Bimol and Alfred as their common candidates. The eight political parties such as INC, CPI (Marxist), NCP, Shiv Sena (Uddhav Thackeray), Aam Aadmi Party, Rev lutionary Socialist Party, All India Forward Bloc and All India Trinamool Congress, have confirmed their support for the two Congress candidates, two political parties such as CPI and Janata Dal (United), which have not joined INDIA Bloc Manipur, are yet to confirm their support.
It remains to be seen if INC can rekindle its old magic and forge a victory. Their alliance, the INDIA Bloc Manipur, presents a united front. Still, questions remain about Dr. Bimol Akoijam’s ability to translate his online popularity into grassroots support. Meanwhile, the BJP faces an uphill battle with anti-incumbency sentiment. However, NPF has strong chances of retaining the Outer Constituency. Ultimately, the outcome of the elections will depend on voters’ concerns over development, ethnic issues, and the candidates’ ability to address the challenges of a region grappling with both internal displacement and heavy militarisation.
With a record number of women electors registered to vote, a high turnout could also be a factor in this dynamic political landscape. Regardless of the victors, a peaceful and violence-free election will be a crucial step forward for democracy in Manipur.