It’s a fight between “power” and “confidence”.
Moirangthem Nara Singh of the CPI, backed by nine other parties, is set for a big fight with his traditional rival Thokchom Meinya Singh of the Congress in the Inner Manipur seat, where polls will be held on April 17.
“The Congress says winning the Inner seat is as easy as hitting the wall with a stone. Let the Congress play wall-hitting, I am going to Delhi this time,” said Nara Singh. Such is the confidence of the CPI candidate.
However, Nara Singh’s road to the Lok Sabha will not be as easy as he hopes. Meinya Singh is seeking re-election for the third consecutive term and he has the “manpower and the resources (read money power)”. Meinya Singh had defeated Nara Singh in the past two Lok Sabha elections — in 2009 with a margin of 30,960 votes and in 2004 with 49,333 votes.
Moreover, the Congress rules the state with 47 MLAs in the 60-member House. The party had won 42 seats in the 2012 Assembly election. The number increased to 47 after five MLAs of the regional Manipur State Congress Party merged with it recently.
Meinya Singh is a mathematician. In 2001, he had participated in the upheaval against the extension of NSCN (Isak-Muivah) ceasefire to Manipur, during which 18 people died. He was elected to the Assembly on the ticket of the regional Democratic Revolutionary Peoples Party in 2002. He did not lose much time in joining the Congress and became the cabinet minister in-charge of higher education. He was first elected to Lok Sabha in 2004. With the support of 47 MLAs, he hopes to retain the seat.
“The Congress has accelerated the pace of development in Manipur. We will win,” he said.
Nara Singh holds a medical degree in homeopathy from Calcutta Homeopathy Medical College. He joined the CPI in 1973 and became an MLA in 1985. He held the portfolio of culture and is known as “man of culture”. He is a strong advocate of “culture for peace”. Nara Singh is an MLA from Wangjing Tentha constituency (ST), a CPI stronghold, in Thoubal district. The fact that his Assembly segment falls under Outer Manipur seat does not dwindle the candidate’s confidence.
Nara Singh has the support of the eight-party Left and Secular Alliance, whose constituents are the CPI, CPM, Forward Block, RSP, JD (S), Peoples Democratic Alliance, Shiv Sena and the Bahujan Samaj Party. The NCP and the Social Democratic Party of India are also supporting him.
There are eight candidates in the fray in Inner Manipur. The others are R.K. Ranjan Singh (BJP), Sarangthem Manaobi (Trinamul Congress), Gurumayum Tonsana Sharma (Manipur Democratic Peoples’ Front), Oinam Jotin Singh (Jai Mahabharat), Kh. Ibomcha Singh (Aam Aadmi Party) and Indira Oinam (Independent). Indira had quit the BJP after she was denied the party ticket.
The Narendra Modi wave has reached Manipur to some extent. However, the state unit of the BJP may fail to convert it into votes, as the party does not have much of a base in the state.
Meinya Singh’s disadvantage is he has “failed” to live up to the people’s expectations. “He has been a non-performer in the past two terms,” T. Renu, a women’s activist in Imphal, said.
The Congress candidate admitted that he had not been able to satisfy the people, a fact admitted by chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh too. “Please vote for the Congress, if not for Meinya,” Ibobi Singh had pleaded during an election rally addressed by AICC vice-president Rahul Gandhi in Thoubal district.
Nara Singh’s drawback is that the anti-Congress votes will be shared by the BJP, which is fielding a popular environmentalist and rights activist R.K. Ranjan Singh, and other candidates. In addition to this, the alliance partners do not have a single MLA in the Assembly segments in Inner Manipur. Only NCP has an MLA.
Nara Singh’s only advantage is that the voters, who have realised that the BJP will not click in Manipur, are turning to him.
“I wanted to support the BJP candidate. But now I have realised supporting the CPI is the best option,” Babycha Devi, a 28-year-old voter, here said.
Nara Singh is hoping for support from more people like Babycha.