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Manipur Elections 2022: BJP strongman denied ticket, contests as independent

The election will not be a cakewalk for the newspaper publisher turned politician, Nishikant Singh Sapam. 

February 23, 2022 / 05:09 PM IST
With over Rs. 23 crore in assets, Sapam is the richest among 173 candidates in the fray for the 38 seats up for grabs on February 28.

With over Rs. 23 crore in assets, Sapam is the richest among 173 candidates in the fray for the 38 seats up for grabs on February 28.

In a surprise to the people of Manipur, especially voters in the Keishamthong assembly constituency, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has excluded Nishikant Singh Sapam from its list of candidates for the 2022 state elections

When his name did not make it to the list and several constituencies across Manipur erupted in protest, Sapam appealed to his supporters to maintain calm.  

He also promised them that he would not step back and said he would contest the election as an independent, not as the candidate of an alternative party, perhaps indicating that he is not the kind of person who jumps ship for the sake of an election ticket. The gesture has impressed his supporters.  

Read also: The ten constituencies that could decide the elections

 The people of Manipur had been so sure of Sapam being included in the ruling BJP’s list of candidates that a comment to this effect was doing the rounds: “If Sapam does not get a BJP ticket, the sun will rise from the west.” 

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Sapam is founder -publisher of Manipur’s leading English daily newspaper The Sangai Express and a popular public figure. 

In his late 50s now, Sapam came into electoral politics relatively recently with no political background or mentor. Beginning his political career with the BJP, he has been campaigning under the banner of the party for the 2022 election in the Keishamthong assembly constituency. He has been at the forefront of the BJP in Manipur since he formally joined the party in 2019. 

 Known to be straightforward and outspoken, he has a considerable following among educated urban voters with whom his election plank against corruption, and for accountability and transparency in public life struck a resonant chord. 

 A basketball player in his younger days, Sapam is presently the president of Manipur’s state basketball association. 

With over Rs. 23 crore in assets, Sapam is the richest among 173 candidates in the fray for the 38 seats up for grabs on February 28, the first phase of polling. Commentators find his declaration of income and assets – including his spouse’s -- as a sign of his honesty and transparency. It reinforces his image as a trustworthy politician and adds to the credibility of his election plank.    

A voter in his constituency , who identified herself as Sangeeta, is confident that Sapam would win the election. According to observers, the BJP has fielded a candidate who does not carry much weight in the constituency. “The BJP candidate cannot be compared to Sapam in terms of popularity and influence,” said one voter. 

Read also: Will Manipur's 'Lady Singham' make a mark or meet Irom Sharmila's fate?

 Sapam’s key opponent is Langpoklakpam Jayantakumar, the sitting National People’s Party MLA and a former minister in Biren’s Singh coalition government. Jayantakumar was removed from his ministerial post in a mid-term cabinet reshuffle. His popularity ratings have declined considerably over the years. 

It will still not be a cakewalk for Sapam, whose opponents have mocked him since he was denied the BJP’s nomination. He has been taunted as a wannabe politician who has no self-respect. As publisher of Manipur’s leading newspaper, his entry into politics has also been called into question by his critics.

 



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