All set for second phase poll Speaking of issues

Voters in 47 Assembly Constituencies have had their say in the just held Parliamentary elections in the first phase of the voting on April 19, followed by the repoll in 11 Polling Stations on April 22. Come April 26, or say 24 hours after readers go through this commentary, voters in the remaining 13 Assembly segments will have their say and demonstrate their choice in choosing the man they elect to send to the lower House of Parliament. No Assembly segment in the Inner Parliamentary Constituency will have their say in the second phase of the polling and as in the past, the main issues between the two Parliamentary Constituencies may be as different as cheese from chalk. Unsurprisingly the main issue around which the election was fought in the Inner Constituency is the ongoing clash between the Meiteis and the Kukis and in pushing the button of their choice, the voters have already made up their mind in deciding who is best placed to take the story of Manipur to Parliament and beyond. Remains to be seen if the best man available has indeed been chosen or not and this is something which will be known only on June 4. Manipur is now ready for the second phase polling for the remaining 13 Assembly segments and while the ongoing clash will feature as one of the more important issues, one can expect to see other ‘more important’ issues hogging the limelight. Given the low key campaigning in the face of the sensitive period which Manipur is passing through right now, the debates or discussions that transpired in the run up to the election for the Outer Constituency were rather muted. It was more a case of the candidates reaching out to the different communities residing in the Outer, particularly the Nagas and the Kukis and in the first phase, the Meiteis whose segments fall under the Outer Constituency. Four candidates from the NPF, Congress and Independents and the poll battle line has been drawn. The interesting part is, there is no candidate from the Kuki-Zo community and making it more interesting is the decision of the BJP not to field its candidate in the Outer but instead extend support to the NPF candidate. How well this would have gone down with the Kuki-Zo voters as well as the Meitei voters who come under the eight Assembly segments that fall in the Outer Parliamentary Constituency remains to be seen and much will depend on how the NPF and the Congress are able to exploit the situation to their advantage.
What are the issues that could influence the voting behaviour of the people who will vote on April 26 ? Tough to say but it is more than certain that the ongoing peace negotiation between the NSCN (IM) and the Government of India will figure high on the agenda. As the party which has the backing of the BJP, will the NPF be in a better position to push the interests of the Naga people, in case the BJP comes back to power at New Delhi, is a question worth exploring. This is also a point which the Congress must have studied minutely and to the advantage of the oldest political party in the country, it can always refer to the previous term when the BJP was in power and the Outer Parliamentary Constituency here had an MP from the NPF vis-a-vis the progress of the political negotiation. How much would the Naga voters be influenced by the status or position of the ongoing political negotiations ? And more importantly how much has the outcome of the Parliamentary election been able to influence the progress of the political negotiation that can be traced back to 1997 ? Questions at the moment, but these are points one can expect the candidates as well as the political parties they represent at the hustings to address or answer in a manner that would be acceptable to the Naga people. These are some immediate poll issues one can expect to influence the voting behaviour of the Naga people, and in the backdrop of the  ongoing ethnic clash, one question which has been dogging Manipur, but which has never been vocalised publicly or even privately is, how long can the Naga people stay away from the ongoing clash, despite it affecting them as well.