Primed for a comeback - Politics, like most other games, improves with experience and seasoned players have what it takes

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By KHELEN THOKCHOM
  • Published 14.02.07
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Wangoi (Imphal West), Feb. 13: Lalu Prasad need look no further than Wahengbam Nipamacha Singh to make the Rashtriya Janata Dal a “national party”. At least that is the impression the former chief minister is giving on his comeback to the centrestage of Manipur politics.

Nipamacha appears to have mellowed down after five years in the political wilderness, but there is no missing the ambition in his eyes.

“We (the RJD) are going to open our account in Manipur and I am sure this will make a lot of difference to our party,” Nipamacha tells his supporters during a pep talk in the guestroom on the first floor of his two-storied house.

Apart from Bihar, the RJD has legislators in Jharkhand and West Bengal.

Nipamacha is not only confident that the RJD will open its account in Manipur — to become a national party, it needs to have legislators in at least four states — but also sure of play a role in government formation. “No party is going to win enough seats to form the government on its own. It will be a coalition government this time as well and the RJD cannot be ignored when the time for government formation comes,” he predicts.

A measure of the RJD’s confidence in Nipamacha’s leadership is the fact that the party is contesting as many as 28 seats this time. The former chief minister is hoping that the party will win at least 10.

Nipamacha became chief minister in 1997 after ousting the then Congress government, led by Rishang Keishing. He floated the Manipur State Congress Party (MSCP) while he was the Speaker. He won the 2000 election and became chief minister again, only to be ousted the very next year. This was followed by President’s rule.

The lowpoint in Nipamacha’s career was his defeat in the 2002 election, largely because of the anti-incumbency factor and public outrage over the extension of the NSCN (I-M)-Delhi ceasefire beyond Nagaland.

As the election was held in the aftermath of the campaign against the ceasefire, many of the then sitting MLAs did not retain their Assembly seats.

Straightforward and somewhat of a maverick, Nipamacha is staging his comeback from his favourite constituency, Wangoi. At 77, he is the oldest candidate in the fray. Ask him why he left the MSCP, which he himself formed, and he gives an elaborate explanation. “It is a sin to be with a party that does not have any representation in Parliament. However powerful the party might be on home turf, it cannot raise Manipur’s problems in Parliament if it does not have any MP.”

Nipamacha is up against sitting legislator Y. Mani Singh of the MSCP. Mani was a Congress legislator, but joined the MSCP when he was denied the party ticket this time. This, Nipamacha believes, augurs well for him. But the contest will be a triangular one with Congress candidate Sagolsem Achouba also emerging as a strong contender.

The Manipur Peoples Party, the NCP and the BJP have fielded candidates as well. Wangoi has 22,870 voters, including about 6,000 Muslims.

“We have garnered more Muslim support this time. We do not need to carry out a house-to-house campaign as we know for sure that our Sir will win: it is a foregone conclusion,” says RJD worker Biren Singh.