The heavy stake behind the LS polls Responsibility on the voters

Congress candidate Professor Angomcha Bimol Akoijam is bang on target in asserting that how the voters vote will go a long way in deciding the future of Manipur, but yet at the same time how the voters vote may also decide the fate of quite some prominent personalities in Manipur. The stake could be different for the different players, but one point common in the observation of quite a large number of keen political observers stands out and that is, the coming Lok Sabha election cannot be more critical for Chief Minister N Biren and his team of faithfuls. As pointed out on more than one occasion in this column, for one, the election could mean a sort of a referendum on the performance of the BJP led Government in the face of the ongoing ethnic clash between the Kukis and the Meiteis. Even after more than 11 months of the clash erupting in all its ugliness on May 3, 2023, there is nothing to suggest that Manipur has started to walk the road to normalcy. The direct clash between members of the two communities may have subsided for now, but mark the stress on the italised for now, for remember none can predict when the clash or direct confrontation between the two groups of people will explode in all its ferocity. Take a look at the reality. Over 60,000 people are still holed up in the different relief centres set up across the length and breadth of Manipur. No Meitei would dare to travel along the Imphal-Dimapur line, passing through Kangpokpi. Likewise no Meitei would go beyond Moirang on the Churachandpur side. No Meitei, other than the security personnel, would feel comfortable or safe to proceed to Moreh from Imphal. Likewise no Kuki would dare to enter Imphal or return to their homes at Imphal or any of the other valley districts. It is amid this reality that Manipur will go to polls in two phases, on April 19 and April 26 and it is not without a reason why the coming Lok Sabha election is today being viewed as some sort of a referendum on the BJP led Government under Chief Minister N Biren Singh. If the BJP candidate Thounaojam Basantakumar makes it, then it would be well and good for the incumbent Government, particularly for Chief Minister N Biren, but if the opposite happens and any of the other contesting candidates win then what is the likely consequence for the Government at Imphal and its leadership ? It is precisely for this that the coming Lok Sabha election could mean something much more than just contesting the election, for it could be a pointer of things to come in the coming days. The drama, the ‘suspense’ and the speculations that did the round before the saffron party named Th Basantakumar as its candidate in the Inner Parliamentary seat is something that will not be forgotten in a hurry and this is where one is reminded of the fact that the BJP overlooked its sitting MP and Minister of State to boot Dr RK Ranjan while zeroing in on the candidate of its choice. This should say so many things, particularly the fact that for the BJP, the 2024 Parliamentary election is not going to be as smooth as it was back in 2019.
The question is have the BJP MLAs and its allies started working, canvassing for support of the party’s candidate ? The people will know the answer better but the very fact that this poser has been raised should be obvious to the keen political followers. In as much as the coming Lok Sabha election will be a sort of a referendum on the BJP led Government at Imphal, it is interesting the see the Congress riding on the shoulder of its candidate, Bimol Akoijam. Now this is something new and is a phenomenon not seen in any of the earlier elections. To a large extent the coming election will also reflect whether the Congress in Manipur will re-emerge as the force it once was or not. The stake is obviously high not only for its candidate, but also for the party as a whole and many see the present reality as perhaps one of the best opportunities for the Congress to remind the people here that as a political party it is still a force to reckon with. Everything will depend on how the voters decide on voting day and this is where it becomes extremely crucial for the people to remember that in pressing the button on the Electronic Voting Machine on April 19, they will also be sealing the fate of Manipur for the next five years. The responsibility of choosing who is the best person to represent Manipur on the floor of the highest decision making body of the country should not be overlooked.