The sheer level of party hopping in Manipur will make even the politicians in Goa, notorious for their fickle nature, blush. While the Northeastern State is all set to vote 60 MLAs in, it is not clear how many of them will still be with their parties by the time the next election rolls around. Regardless, we take a look at ten constituencies that could play a big role in government formation after the results of the latest election are in.
Sitting BJP Legislator Phairembam Saratchandra Singh, who was dropped from the party candidate list for 2022, has joined the Congress and is seeking re-election for a second term. The ruling BJP offered the party ticket to Mairenbam Prithviraj Singh, who defected from the Congress in October last year.
Moirang assembly constituency is one of the three constituencies where the ruling BJP had by-passed its sitting MLA in picking candidates for the 2022 Manipur state election. The constituency saw a violent reaction by supporters and BJP workers over the denial of the party ticket to the sitting MLA.
The three contestants for the constituency — P. Saratchandra, M. Prithviraj and Thongam Shanti — are the same as in the 2017 election. While Saratchandra and Prithviraj have switched sides, Shanti, who contested as an independent in 2017, is now with the National People’s Party (NPP).
Voters are unhappy with sitting MLA Saratchandra, who they accuse of not doing anything for the constituency. Nevertheless, his strength lies in his loyal supporters who voted him to power in the previous election. The BJP is countingon its new candidate Prithviraj to make a difference. But the NPP candidate Shanti could play spoiler.
Party hopper Okram Henry, nephew of three-time Congress chief minister Okram Ibobi, is contesting on a BJP ticket this time. The saffron party’s ticket was offered to the Congress turncoat, bypassing senior BJP member Yumkham Erabot Singh.
Erabot, the BJP candidate in the 2017 election, had filed a petition in the Manipur High Court seeking to nullify the 2017 election result, which had declared Henry, then a Congressman, the winner. In its verdict in 2021, the single bench of Justice MV Muralidaran held the election of Henry to be null and void on the grounds of concealing vital information, including his criminal antecedents. The court then declared Erabot as the new MLA.
Henry is one of the accused in a multi-crore drug seizure in 2013.
In 2012 as well, Henry, then with the MSCP party, had lost to Erabot, who was then with the Congress. Henry joined the BJP in 2020 and was made a cabinet minister in the BJP government within six months of joining the ruling party.
Wankhei is one of the constituencies that witnessed a huge protest after the BJP came out with its list of candidates. Erabot’s Supporters went on a rampage burning effigies and party flags.
Eventually, Erabot joined the National People’s Party (NPP).
Another BJP member and party loyalist Arunkumar Singh, a ticket aspirant who was also sidelined, joined the Janata Dal ( United). The Congress has fielded Rajkumar Priyobarta Singh.
The constituency will see a close race between the BJP and the NPP, allies in the outgoing assembly.
BJP workers erupted in protest in the constituency after the candidate list was announced with Congress turncoat and sitting MLA Yengkhom Surchandra being offered the party ticket over BJP leader M Rameshwar Singh.
Elected on a Congress ticket in the previous election, Surchandra Singh is seeking re-election for the fourth time in Kakching constituency, this time with a BJP ticket. The veteran congress leader defected to the BJP after the election result the same year in 2017.
Rameshwar lost to Surchandra in the 2017 election. After being denied a saffron ticket he joined the NPP.
After the 2017 election, Rameshwar had moved court to disqualify Surchandra. The High Court had in November 2020 declared Surchandra’s election to be null and void on the grounds of his not properly disclosing the particulars of his assets and liabilities in the poll affidavit for the 2017 election.
Rameshwar was sworn in as MLA in 2020 after the court verdict. He was, however, denied the party ticket by the BJP this time, prompting his supporters to erupt in protest.
The Congress and CPI (Manipur State Council) have a pre-poll alliance. However, both parties fielded candidates for the Kakching constituency. The Congress fielded Ksh. Kennedy Singh, while the CPI (MSC) fielded Yengkhom Roma Devi, a woman, who may find the going difficult in conservative Manipur. Both are first-timers.
The constituency is expected to see a close fight between the BJP and the NPP, allies in the outgoing assembly. In previous assembly elections, the CPI(MSC) has often come second in the Kakching constituency.
Sitting MLA Khumukchan Joykishan of the Congress was expelled by the party for anti-party activities. Joykishan won the 2017 in a neck-to-neck race with the BJP candidate Jyotin Waikhom.
Joykishan won the 2012 election with the Trinamool Congress. But he switched to the Congress for the 2017 election and later left it in an attempt to join the BJP. He was denied the saffron party ticket, which went to Jyotin Waikhom, a BJP senior member. Joykishan is now with the JD (U).
Waikhom, himself a Congress member earlier, joined the BJP in the runup to the 2017 election. He came a close second in both the previous elections.
In the past, Thangmeiband has elected a candidate who became chief minister. Radhabinod Koijam, a senior Congress leader and veteran politician, was the CM in 2001, albeit for a short period.
The Congress has fielded a new face, Hijam Nutanchandra, for the 2022 election.
Sitting MLA Joykishan, now with the JD(U), is seeking re-election for the third time. Voters and observers say that the sitting MLA is better known than the BJP and Congress candidates and the JD(U) could have the last laugh in this triangular fight.
There was a shiver when Govindas Konthoujam, veteran Congress leader and prominent politician, joined the BJP last year. Elected for five consecutive terms, Konthoujam is a well-known political face in Manipur. A large number of Congress members from Bishnupur constituency left with him to join the BJP.
Konthoujam joining the ruling BJP in the runup to the 2022 polls has caused a stir. Political pundits observed that he could be a chief ministerial prospect after the results are out. Voters and the general public in Manipur saw Konthoujam’s move as a bargain for the CM post. Others observe that Konthoujam’s entry into the BJP could be the strategy of some senior BJP members looking to change the incumbent CM.
Among the other candidates in the fray are former chief secretary of Manipur Oinam Nabakishor of the JD(U) and Ningthoujam Joykumar of the Congress.
Oinam, who was the Congress candidate in the 2019 Lok Sabha election, had lost to R.K. Rajan Singh of the BJP. He later joined the BJP but was denied the party ticket for the 2022 election. He has now joined the Janata Dal (U).
Congress’s Joykumar was a BJP party ticket aspirant but was denied.
A Congress bastion, Lilong is a constituency in which the BJP has not made any major inroads. However, 2022 could see that equation change.
Md. Abdul Nasir of the Congress, who won the 2017 election, resigned and a bypoll was conducted in 2020. Nasir contested the bypoll as an independent but lost to another independent. Nasir was hoping to contest the 2022 election on a BJP ticket but was denied. He then joined the JD(U).
Antas Khan, who stood second in the 2017 election, beat Nasir in the byelection. Last November, Khan joined the ruling BJP and is the party’s candidate for the 2022 polls.
The Congress fielded Syed Anwar Hussein, a BJP ticket aspirant who was denied.
The constituency will see a close fight between the JD(U) and the BJP.
Hussein had contested the 2017 election on a BJP party ticket. He was the first-ever BJP candidate for the Lilong constituency. This election, however, the party favoured Khan over Hussein.
Lilong, a predominantly Muslim constituency, could vote in a saffron MLA this election.
A reserved constituency for Scheduled Tribes, the 2022 election will see a fight between ruling alliance partners NPF and the BJP. Though the two partners claim it’s a friendly fight, the contest appears to be anything but that.
Sitting Congress MLA D Korungthang joined the Naga People’s Front ( NPF) in the runup to the polls. His opponent is the BJP’s Letpao Haokip, who joined the party last year. Haokip, who was elected from the NPP, switched from the Chandel (ST) constituency to Tengnoupal on a BJP ticket.
The NPP has fielded Jangmang Haokip, a new face for the constituency. Meanwhile, a senior politician and former MLA Morung Makunga, who was denied the NPF ticket, is the Congress candidate.
Tengnoupal, the district headquarters, has witnessed poll violence and armed militants interfering before and during elections.
The National People's Party (NPP) has alleged that Kuki armed militant groups were threatening its candidate and that the groups were in favour of the BJP candidate.
Armed Naga groups are infamously known to interfere in constituencies such as Tengnoupal in any elections. They are known to order people to vote for certain candidates of their choice. Though these are not open declarations, insurgent groups have a say in elections, particularly in the Naga and Kuki dominated tribal constituencies.
Voters in Tengnoupal constituency and Tengnoupal district are largely from the Kuki and Naga communities. BJP candidate Letpao Haokip is Kuki while NPF candidate Korungthang is a Naga. The Kuki armed groups are reportedly backing the Kuki candidate while the Naga groups are said to be supporting the Naga candidate.
Korungthang, a veteran and senior politician, is a two-time MLA. The fight in this constituency will be between the BJP and the NPF. The NPP candidate, who is relatively new to electoral politics, does appear to have some influence, however. The Congress candidate, a veteran, has been off the election field for a long time. He is unlikely to reclaim his traditional constituency this time.
Sitting BJP MLA and minister Vungzagin Valte is fighting newcomers in his traditional Thanlon constituency, which is a reserved ST constituency. Unlike in 2017, when Valte had an easy run with no major prominent opponent, this election will be harder.
Running for a third term, Valte will face two major opponents, the NPP candidate Khanthang Tonsing, who is the son of a prominent politician and former Congressman, and Independent candidate Langkhanpau Guite.
Guite is a former elected member of the Autonomous District Council. He is reported to have a strong hold over the rural population and a connect with locals in terms of his physical presence among the voters and good rapport even beyond election periods.
Tonsing, the NPP candidate, is perceived as a promising new face who is educated, urbane and somebody who can represent tribal and minority interests at large in the State assembly. He also has a large following among the educated youth, loyal supporters of his father.
While the fight is essentially triangular — BJP, NPP and the independent — there are six candidates in the fray in total. The Shiv Sena, Lok Jan Shakti and Janata Dal (U) have also put up candidates, all of whom are new entrants, like their parties.
Ukhrul, a constituency reserved for Scheduled Tribes, will see a triangular fight involving the Congress, BJP and NPF.
Last time around, sitting Congress MLA Alfred Kanngam Arthur beat the BJP’s Somatai Shaiza in a close race. This time Arthur will face a tough opponent in Ram Muivah of the NPF.
The son of a prominent politician, Arthur has an advantage as a sitting MLA. The popularity of the energetic, educated, suave MLA has gone up in recent times, especially among educated younger voters. One of the prominent members of the Opposition benches in the outgoing assembly, he is seen as a strong, capable and dignified leader who stood for the tribal cause.
Undeterred by his defeat in 2017, the BJP’s Shaiza, a popular sportsperson, is looking to rewrite the script this time.
The NPF’s Ram Muivah, a retired bureaucrat, though a new entrant in electoral politics, has some influence over the constituency. During his tenure in the bureaucracy, he held important positions in the development sector, particularly in the North-East Council DoNER. Muivah thus represents the face of development.
Ukhrul constituency regularly experiences interference from insurgent groups, specifically the NSCN and its factions, particularly during elections. These groups issue diktats to voters asking them to vote for their chosen candidate. It may be mentioned that Ukhrul and its adjoining areas are strongholds of the NSCN (IM).
Recently a powerful IED exploded inside the campus of the Ukhrul Divisional Forest office, where election observers — both police and expenditure observers — were stationed
According to local media reports, NSCN(IM) groups support the NPF candidate while other armed factions are backing other candidates.
Sitting MLA Awangbow Newmai of the NPF is seeking re-election here. He is the Environment and Forests Minister in the Biren Singh-led coalition government. His main opponent is Kikhonbow Newmai, who defected from the Congress to the BJP before the 2017 election but was defeated. Kikhonbou is now with the NPP.
The Congress has fielded Kumuiteung (Dr Aku), a new face to politics.
The constituency will see a race between the NPF, NPP and BJP, which are alliance partners in the outgoing State assembly.
In Tamei constituency, elected candidates mostly suffer anti-incumbency and fail to get reelected. The sitting MLA Awangbow was elected as an Independent in 2007, but lost to Kikhonbou Newmai of the Congress in 2012. Kikhonbou then lost to Awangbow in 2017. Z. Mangaibou of the Congress was elected in 2002. The upcoming election will reveal if voters rewrite the script and give the NPF a second chance.