WHY BOTH MEITEIS AND KUKI-ZOS REJECTED BJP IN MANIPUR!

The Congress is poised to win both seats in the state and had secured 47.59% of the vote share.

Since May last year, Manipur’s two major communities, the Meiteis and the Kuki-Zomi tribal groups, have been embroiled in a fierce conflict.
The civil war has left over 227 dead, displaced 70,000 people from their homes and led to an unofficial partition along ethnic lines, all on the watch of Bharatiya Janata Party governments at both state and the Centre. On June 4, the bitterly divided communities appeared to have united – in their rejection of the BJP.
As of 9 pm, the Congress was on course to win both Inner Manipur and Outer Manipur constituencies, with a 47.59% vote share as opposed to 16.58% for the BJP and 18.7% for its ally Naga People’s Front.
The Congress candidate for Inner Manipur, A Bimol Akoijam, was leading over his BJP rival Thounaojam Basanta Singh by over 1 lakh votes. In Outer Manipur, the party’s Alfred Kanngam S Arthur had a lead of 85,000 votes over Kachui Timothy Zimik, the candidate of Naga People’s Front.
“It appears to be a decisive vote against the BJP in Manipur from all communities,” said a Zomi activist, who did not want to be identified. “Even the Meitei voter who has been sold hate and vitriol for the past 12 months seems to be fed up and disillusioned.”
Chief Minister N Biren Singh of the BJP has been criticised not just for its failure to contain the violence but also for stoking Meitei majoritarian sentiments. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not visited the strife-torn state since the start of the conflict.
“This mandate should open the eyes of the government of India,” said L Somrendra Singh, a 54-year-old teacher in Moirang town.
Political scientist Kham Khan Suan Hausing said the result was a vote against the “double-engine sarkar”, referring to the BJP state and central governments. “The result demonstrates that the cocktail of majoritarian and electoral politics has its limits.”

Biren rebuffed
The Inner Manipur seat, which spans most of the Imphal valley districts, saw a contest between Akoijam, a teacher at Jawaharlal Nehru University, and Thounaojam Basanta Singh, a state Cabinet minister.
Imphal-based political scientist Senjam Mangi Singh attributed the BJP’s poor performance in Inner Manipur to two factors. Voters were disappointed with the Central government in general and Prime Minister Modi in particular, and also had faith in the ability and competence of Bimol Akoijam as a political leader. “Many have come to equate the silence of the prime minister with indifference,” said Singh.
Akoijam is known to be an articulate advocate for the Meitei cause and he drew a positive response, especially from educated voters. “The Congress rode on the shoulder of Bimol Akoijam,” said the editor of an Imphal-based English daily.
Despite an anti-incumbency sentiment against the BJP, the Congress was up against the strong-arm tactics of the Arambai Tenggol, a radical Meitei militia group believed to be close to the Biren Singh government. Its cadres had allegedly threatened Akoijam during the campaign.
The verdict is being seen as a rebuff to Biren Singh, who has been criticised for ignoring his constitutional duties as the chief minister and taking on the role of an ethnic strongman to placate the Meiteis.
“People, especially Meitei voters, are utterly tired of the divisive politics the current regime is playing, especially on ethnic lines,” said an editor at Ukhrul Times, an online daily that operates from the Naga Hills.

The tribal vote
In Outer Manipur, home to Manipur’s two major tribal communities, the Nagas and Kuki-Zos as well as a sizeable chunk of Meitei voters, the BJP did not run in the election. However, its ally, the Naga People’s Front, put up Timothy Zimik, a retired bureaucrat, as its candidate.
The Kuki-Zo groups had decided against putting up a candidate in protest against the ethnic violence. The community appeared to have sided with Arthur, who has a record of espousing the cause of tribal rights. They believe he will advance the greater cause of tribal solidarity.
“This worked out for Arthur as many Kuki-Zo votes went to him,” the Ukhrul Times editor said.
Political scientist Senjam Mangi Singh said that in Outer Manipur, “Meiteis, who are traditional Congress supporters, and Kukis appear to have helped Arthur”.
The Ukhrul Times editor also pointed out that there was resentment among the Nagas against the Naga People’s Front, as the incumbent MP, Lorho S Pfoze, had failed to speak up for the Naga cause. “None of the issues related to the Naga political solution were allowed to be raised in Parliament because NPF is an ally of BJP,” the editor said.

He was referring to the long-running demand for a sovereign Naga homeland, which spawned India’s oldest insurgency. In 2015, the Centre signed a framework agreement that was to lay the ground for a peace accord with the largest Naga militant group, the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah faction). Since then, there has been a deadlock over the separate Naga flag and Naga Constitution.

Cuortesy: The Scroll

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