Finer points missed by campaign leaders
OF the many issues raked up by political parties during the exhaustive campaigning for the 11th Manipur Legislative Assembly elections, the framework agreement signed in August 2015 between the Centre and the NSCN-IM, apprehension over the territorial integrity of Manipur in the aftermath of the Indo-Naga peace parleys, the recording-breaking economic blockade along the two national highways in Manipur and creation of seven new districts were the dominant ones. As the election campaign gained momentum it became gradually clear that the BJP and the ruling Congress were the front-runners for wresting power in the state. While BJP used these issues as the smart card to draw the people’s attention on the government’s failures on crucial issues such as development, law and order and governance, among others, Congress leaders responded by hard-selling the saffron party as a political organisation which is not concerned with interest of Manipur and its people. The campaign trail that saw almost all prominent leaders of the BJP was marked by trying to woo the voters of Manipur by blaming the Congress government of doing nothing during the three consecutive terms in office. If one takes into account intensity of the BJP campaign and the crowd drawing oratorial shrewdness of its campaign leaders then the BJP seems to have made significant inroads into the traditionally Congress stronghold. Apart from the BJP onslaught, the ruling Congress technically fought the electoral battle with its back to the wall as no major election rallies could be organised in the hill areas on account of threat perception and diktats against the party.
Regardless of the high-pitch campaigning, the political leaders seem to have missed out on how citizens settling in the core zones of the economic blockade are surviving despite shortage of essential items, which the highway siege has been causing. Taking into account of the blockade enforcers citing utilisation of heavy security personnel to bring in the goods through National Highway-37 to contend that the state government’s only concern is to replenish stock of essential commodities for those settling in the valley districts, then it is obvious that those residing in the Naga dominated hill areas must be in a pitiable condition for no private or government agency would dare to transport goods into the Naga areas. As such the Naga public deserved to be appreciated for their resilience and unwavering support to the protracted economic blockade. Moreover, accusations hurled against the state government of adopting divide and rule policy in the aftermath of creation of new districts testify that the campaign leaders too have failed to note that the valley areas, Imphal is particular, are also permanent homes for thousands of families who actually hail from the hills. In the context of tribal organisations not hesitating to give the communal tag to the Ibobi-led government, the valley dwellers have every right to proclaim that they have no feeling of enmity against any community and as such their accommodative attitude should be applauded. Significantly, election affidavits of many candidates, who are fielded by political organisations whose issues are mainly centred on arousing anti-Manipur sentiments, have been residing mostly in Imphal and visit their ancestral homes in the hills occasionally. Politicians missing out on these finer points indicate that their only concern is winning the elections at any cost, including triggering communal tension and creating a restive situation in the multi-ethnic society.