Amid the boycotts before the polls Piling the heat on Congress

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Congress boycotted in the Naga areas of Manipur. Congress boycotted at Churachandpur, thanks to the three Bills passed by the State Assembly last year. Congress boycotted at Sadar Hills over its failure to declare Sadar Hills as a full fledged district. Economic blockade imposed by the United Naga Council over the alleged attempt of the Congress Government to declare Sadar Hills and Jiribam as full fledged districts on. It is against these backdrops that the Congress will face the next Assembly election, scheduled to be held in the early part of next year. Chief Minister O Ibobi and other Congress leaders must be feeling the heat, more so with the BJP breathing down its neck. A sure sign that the Congress will not have it as easy as the 2012 Assembly election, when it pushed aside all the other political parties to secure 42 seats. This number swelled to 47 after five MSCP MLAs joined the Congress enmasse which was further bolstered by the entry of the remaining AITC MLAs. On the other hand four Congress MLAs have resigned from the party and the State Assembly. Out of the four, three, N Biren, Y Erabot and Francis Ngajokpa have joined the BJP while it is not yet clear which party Janghemlung Panmei, elected from Tamenglong AC, may join. Early days yet and while it would be premature to read the political tea leaves at the moment, the fight will be a close one between the Congress and the BJP. The question is how the Congress will try to make up for its shortfalls in the hill districts.

A look at some of the pressing issues will certainly influence the voting pattern of the people. The territorial integrity of Manipur will certainly be played up by all the political parties ahead of the election. With the BJP seen to be close to the Naga People’s Front, which is again seen to be close to the NSCN (IM), will the Congress play this up, especially in the valley areas, where 40 MLAs will be elected ? It will be interesting to see how the Congress uses this card and how the BJP tries to nullify it. The demand to implement the Inner Line Permit System or a similar mechanism to check the inflow of non-local people can also impact on the voting pattern of the people. The interesting question is, what is the stand of the BJP on this count ? Will it be able to outwit the Congress and try to win over the voters in Churachandpur without antagonising the voters in the valley areas ? Equally important, how will the Congress try to convince the voters of Churachandpur district that any Bill that is passed in the future will not affect or seem to affect the indigenous people of the district ? The question of district status to Sadar Hills and Jiribam too will influence the voters in the coming days and as the political party which is in power for the third consecutive term, the onus will be certainly be on the Congress.

Source: The Sangai Express

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