Vote has been cast, repoll held Keeping the ST demand alive

Vote has been cast. Repoll has been  held and now it is time for leikai and office experts to have their time under the Sun, reading the election tea leaves complete with minute calculation and expounding on the number of votes a candidate is likely to receive and then accordingly draw up the party which is best placed to send its man to the Lok Sabha. The election in the Inner seat is over, but the focus of the people continue to be fixed on the election for which voting was held on April 19 and repoll in 11 polling stations on April 22. It will be days before the election dust settles before the result is finally announced in the early part of June but as stated earlier in this very column, the outcome of the election will reflect the character of the Meitei people. It will also go a long way in answering how the people as a whole have responded to the ongoing ethnic clash, which is fast nearing its one year mark. Will this election say something significant about how the people have coped with the deafening silence of the Prime Minister on the ongoing clash ? The outcome of the election, in so far as the Inner seat is concerned, will be taken as a sort of a referendum to the manner in which Imphal has responded to the clash from the day it erupted in all its ugliness on May 3, 2023. The answers to the posers raised here have been sealed and packed and it remains to be seen whether the Meiteis have risen to the occasion to demonstrate their character as a people/community that they are rooted to the reality and cannot be swept away by the din and dust kicked up by the hectic electioneerings seen before April 19. Even as the dust kicked up the hectic electioneering process is yet to finally settle down, there is nothing to suggest that Manipur has started taking her first step towards normalcy. Even though the guns may have gone silent for the time being at the foothills, no one knows when the guns will start booming and as uncertain as the present may be, it has not stopped the ST for Meiteis champions from quietly going about with the campaign. This is what is interesting and noteworthy. So as Manipur continues to be under the election spell, the World Meetei Council can be seen silently going about with their mission of giving more push to the demand that the State Government send the report sought by the Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs, a report sought way back in 2013. 
For the first time sincere efforts could be seen to pitchfork the ST for Meiteis demand as a major poll issue before the Lok Sabha elections, with the Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee, Manipur (STDCM) reaching out to all the candidates in the Inner Parliamentary Constituency to get their stand on the matter. The Meetei/Meitei Tribe Union too delivered a powerful statement that they would stay away from the election process to register their disappointment over the failure/refusal of the State Government to send the ethnographic and socio-economic report of the Meiteis for consideration to be included in the ST list. It is in continuation of this process that one can and should understand the series of drives conducted by the WMC across the valley districts of the State. Not surprising that the just held Lok Sabha election continues to dominate the consciousness of the people, but yet at the same time it is important to ensure that the ST demand too occupies an important space for discussion amongst the people. This is where the ST for Meiteis champions need to study how to give more teeth to the campaign and make it more effective. And perhaps one of the most important and effective steps that may be taken up is to make the ST demand a central issue when Manipur goes for Assembly elections in 2027. The spadework for that should start now. The Lok Sabha elections in the Inner seat is over and the fact that voters in the eight Assembly Constituencies included in the Outer seat can vote but cannot contest the election is a point that should be stressed to highlight the shrunk political space of the Meiteis. And this should be read with the imminent delimitation exercise.