N Biren Singh, who joined BJP in 2016, has earned the reputation of being an accessible Chief Minister. Despite challenges in the last five years, his popularity and 'good performance' give BJP a major advantage in this year's polls.
New Delhi: Manipur in the northeast will go to the polls in two phases on February 27 and March 3. Elections in the Naga, other tribal-dominated areas of Ukhrul and neighbouring districts have generated extra interest and excitement following certain developments in neighbouring Nagaland.
These hilly regions will go for voting on March 3. Ukhrul district is inhabited by a sizable Naga population, especially Tangkhuls, whose community leader Thuingaleng Muivah is the powerful NSCN (IM) general secretary and has been negotiating peace talks with the centre for the last few years now.
Nagaland-based outfit Naga People's Front, which won four seats in 2017, is an ally of the BJP. Of the total 60 assembly segments, 20 are in the hill districts. The valley is a stronghold of the Meitei population. However, the saffron party has announced that it will contest all 60 seats and has set a target of 40 seats for itself. Besides NPF, NPP, led by Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma, is also another ally of the BJP in the outgoing assembly.
Chief Minister N Biren Singh's popularity and 'good performance' despite challenges in the last five years give BJP a major advantage in this year's polls. N Biren Singh, who joined BJP in 2016, has earned the reputation of being an accessible Chief Minister. In contrast to this, former Congress chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh is generally seen as an arrogant and inaccessible leader.
Chief Minister's outreach programmes 'Go to Hills' and 'Go to Village' have been widely accepted and appreciated by the people in this development-starved state. N Biren Singh also has an image of a 'protector' of Meitei interests, which gives him a big advantage in the valleys. The Prime Minister's concept of 'Double Engine' is at its display in its best form in this state.
Of course, this used to be the Congress advantage factor for decades, and now that pattern is definitely going to boost the BJP campaign. The decline in the long bandhs and blockades will also favour the BJP.
In Chief Minister's constituency Heingang, people also appreciate that BJP took a major move to appoint a woman state unit president in Sharda Devi. This is the first time a woman is heading a national party in the state.
Of course, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's personal charisma will always benefit BJP. Among the projects inaugurated and launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on January 4 at the state capital, Imphal is the landmark Steel Bridge built over Barak River. The project will fulfil the long-awaited demands of the people, and henceforth the traffic congestion along the national highway 37 will be reduced. This will ensure seamless year-round connectivity between Imphal and Silchar in the Cachar district of Assam. The road link to Imphal is via Kohima in Nagaland, and commuters, truckers are often faced with different kinds of challenges.
The BJP's performance in Manipur will be vital from the perspective of northeast politics. In February-March 2023, three other northeastern states Meghalaya, Tripura and Nagaland, are also slated to go for polls.