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Manipur Assembly Polls: 1st Phase To Decide Fate of CM Biren Singh, BJP Mins

Here's a look at the key candidates and constituencies for the first phase of the Manipur Assembly elections.

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Elections
5 min read
Manipur Assembly Polls: 1st Phase To Decide Fate of CM Biren Singh, BJP Mins
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Voting in the first phase of Manipur elections began on Monday, 28 February, with 38 out of 60 seats going to the polls.

The otherwise overlooked state of Manipur has seen increased presence of political campaigners over the past few weeks.

With 173 candidates, including 15 women, polling will be held in 38 seats during the first phase, with 29 seats covering the valley districts of Imphal West, Imphal West, and Bishenpur, while nine seats will cover the hill districts of Kangpokpi and Churachandpur.

In 2017, while the Congress won 28 seats out of the total 60 seats and became the single largest party, it did not reach the magic number of 31.

Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), despite winning 21 seats, formed the government with the backing of four National People’s Party (NPP) MLAs, four Naga People’s Front (NPF) MLAs and one MLA each from Trinamool Congress (TMC) and Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), and an Independent.

However, with issues like the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) lingering in present memory, the Autonomous District Council (ADC) (Amendment) Bill which seeks the autonomy of the hill districts, and with disappointed ticket aspirants in protest, it remains to be seen if the BJP will be able to hold its reigns and form a majority government of its own.

Here's a look at the key candidates and constituencies that will be a part of Monday’s polling.

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Key Candidates

Chief Minister N Biren Singh: The former footballer and journalist will be contesting from his traditional home seat of Heingang constituency of Imphal East. Biren Singh has won four successive terms from Heingang and is seeking his re-election for the fifth term.

PWD Minister Th Biswajit Singh: A former Trinamool MLA who had joined the BJP in 2015 following a by-election will be contesting from Thongju.

Govindas Konthoujam Singh: The former Manipur Congress chief, who recently joined the BJP, was successful in getting a ticket to contest from Bishenpur.

While both Biswajit and Biren Singh maintain an affable and working relationship in public, their rift is an open secret. Add to this the entry of the former Congress chief, whose aspirations for the chief ministerial seat is public knowledge.

Some former IAS officers will also be contesting on BJP tickets – Raghumani Singh from Uripok in the first phase and Dinganglung Gangmei (Dipu) from Nungba. Further, BJP has given tickets to three women and one Muslim candidate.

Nishikant Singh Sapam: The exclusion of Sapam from BJP’s list of candidates was a shock for voters in the Keishamthong constituency, resulting in him announcing to fight as an Independent. A popular public figure, Sapam is the founder of Manipur’s leading English daily newspaper The Sangai Express.

Sapam Kangleipal: An Independent candidate, he will be contesting from the Lamlai constituency. The 40-year-old’s name was dropped from National People’s Party's (NPP) list of candidates after it was found out that he has 24 cases against him, including cases under the National Security Act (NSA). However, none of the charges has been framed, let alone proven.

Congress Defies Tradition of Naming CM Candidate

Meanwhile, defying its tradition of naming the CM candidate beforehand, Congress has fielded 40 candidates, of which 12 are sitting MLAs, 9 are ex-MLAs while the res are fresh faces.

Congress State President Nameirakpam Loken Singh: Singh is seeking re-election from the Nambol constituency, and recently declared that the party is confident of bagging 32 seats and returning to power.

The Congress has also formed an alliance with the Communist Party of India (CPI), Communist Party of India (Marxist), Revolutionary Socialist Party, Janata Dal (S), and Forward Bloc.
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Key Constituencies

The first phase of polling will see a head-to-head contest between the ruling BJP and Congress in three Assembly seats – Heingang, Thanga and Nambol.

There will be a triangular contest between Congress, BJP and JD(U) in eight Assembly constituencies – Thongju, Thangmeiband, Wangoi, Kangpokpi, Sagolband, Mayang Imphal, Moirang, Bishenpur, and Tipaimukh.

Meanwhile, the National People's Party (NPP), a regional party from Meghalaya with Conrad Sangma as the national president, has decided to fight in 39 of 60 Assembly seats, in an attempt to emerge as an independent regional voice, without its senior ally BJP.

The NPP had formed the government with BJP in 2017, winning four seats and is fighting on 27 seats in the first phase.

Here are some key constituencies in Monday’s fight:

Heingang – The Imphal East district seat was won by BJP’s Nongthombam Biren Singh by defeating Pangeijam Saratchandra Singh from All India Trinamool Congress with a margin of 1,206 votes.

Lamlai – Olympic medallist Mirabai Chanu’s village Nongpok Kakching falls under this constituency. The village which still does not have drinking water supply, or proper roads, has around 85 households with nearly 300 voters. Five candidates belonging to BJP, Congress, Republican Party of India (Athawale) (RPI (A)), JD (U) and an Independent are in the fray for the Lamlai seat.

Yaiskul – BJP's Thokchom Satyabrata Singh, Manipur's law minister, had won this seat in 2017. He will face JD (U)'s Thounaojam Brinda, a decorated former police officer who was a part of the 2012 batch of the Manipur Public Service Commission cadre. Congress and NPP are also in the poll fray.

Bishenpur – BJP MLA Konthoujam Govindas has been winning this seat since 1995 on a Congress ticket. However, after being made the chief of the Manipur Congress unit in December 2020, he resigned as a Congress MLA in July last year to join BJP.

The 6-time MLA had registered a comfortable victory against BJP’s Konthoujam Krishna Kumar Singh in the 2017 election, defeating the latter by 5,278 votes.

Criminal Cases Against Candidates

At least 21 percent of the 173 candidates in the fray for the first phase have criminal cases against them, according to the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) data.

The BJP has fielded the most number of candidates with criminal cases followed by the JD(U).

The report states that in the first phase, 11 out of 38 candidates from the BJP, seven out of 28 candidates from the JD(U), eight out of 35 candidates from the Congress party and three out of 27 candidates from the NPP have declared criminal cases against themselves.

Further, a total of 41 candidates have declared criminal cases of serious nature, while five candidates have pending cases related to crime against women. Additionally, two candidates have murder cases against them.

Financial Declaration by the Candidates

A total of 54 percent (143 out of 265) candidates have declared assets worth over Rs 1 crore, while the average declared assets of candidates was Rs 2.55 crore.

Congress candidate Alfred Kannagam S Arthur in Ukhrul has declared highest assets of over Rs 51 crore.

On the other hand, Kh David Maring of the RPI (A), contesting from Tengnoupal, and NCP's Ningthoujam Popilal Singh, contesting from Sekmai, have declared zero assets.

In the second phase of polling, scheduled for 5 March, 92 candidates, including two women, will contest from 22 assembly constituencies in six districts.

The results of the elections, which equate to kumhei, or festival, and are often perceived as a ‘spectacle,' will be announced on 10 March.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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