Source: 
India Today
Author: 
Date: 
21.02.2022
City: 
Imphal

With just a week until Manipur votes in the first phase to elect 38 MLAs to the 60-member state assembly, political parties are scrambling for resources to intensify their campaigns, sending in top leaders as star campaigners to woo the electorate before the model code sets in.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to address an election rally in Imphal tomorrow. Congress' Rahul Gandhi will hold a public meeting in the capital city today.

The Congress has been largely concentrating on smaller gatherings and public meetings so far. But the BJP has gone all out - heavyweights, including party president JP Nadda, Smriti Irani, Kiren Rijiju, Sarbananda Sonowal, Himanta Biswa Sarma among others have descended to the state, rallying for votes in this northeastern hill state.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Nitin Gadkari, and Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma are arriving this week, while labour minister Bhupender Yadav and state election in charge Pratima Bhoumik have been camping in the state for several days now. Many Union ministers and MPs have made multiple visits.

Meghalaya chief minister Conrad Sangma, whose National People's Party is a part of the North-East Democratic Alliance - political coalition led by the BJP, has been campaigning in Manipur over the last week along with other ministers and leaders of the party, including James Sangma.

The Naga People's Front has brought in chief minister Neiphiu Rio and other senior leaders to campaign in areas dominated by tribes from Nagaland.

Regional parties are likely to play a decisive role in the formation of the government as issues of economic development and the Hill Areas Council Administration have been raised in the hill districts. The NPP, NPF, new entrant JD(U) and the recently-revived Kuki National Assembly will affect vote shares.

PEACE AND THE UNDERGROUND

Manipur has largely been peaceful in the run up to the polls with no major incidents of insurgency. Although sporadic incidents of pre-poll violence between workers of rival political parties in atleast 10 constituencies have been reported, with major clashes in Andro on Saturday involving guns.

The underground organization - Coordination Committee (CorCom) - issued a statement on Sunday calling for a total shut down in the state tomorrow as a mark of protest against the PM's visit. According to police officials, the shutdown call is not likely to affect the PM's political campaign, but may shut down markets. The Meitei UG organization has a lot of influence in the Valley areas, they said.

"The police and the Army cannot be everywhere, and generally the shopkeepers prefer to be safe. A lot of work has been done but these underground organizations still have influence," a senior police officer, who did not wish to be named, told India Today TV.

The police and the Election Commission have flagged that drugs and small arms are being smuggled into the state from across the border. According to the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), over 80% of the registered firearms have been deposited, and regular raids are being conducted to seize alcohol and drugs.

DETAILS OF CANDIDATES

Candidates have started releasing their affidavits to the media in accordance to the election commission guidelines.

A meagre nine percent of the total candidates fielded by political parties in the first phase are women - 15 candidates across 38 constituencies. In the second phase, where 22 constituencies will go to polls, there are only two.

According to the analysis done by the CEO, of the 265 candidates who are contesting, 52 have criminal antecedents. The most number of candidates with criminal backgrounds are from BJP - 15.

In the first phase, 12 candidates of the BJP, eight candidates of Congress, three of NCP, four of NPP, seven of JD(U) and two of RPI(A) have criminal records.

In the second phase, scheduled for March 5, 16 candidates have criminal antecedents - three from BJP, four from the Congress, three from the NCP, four from JD(U), one each from RPI(A) and Shiv Sena, the CEO's report said.

According to reports published by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and Manipur Election Watch, which have analyzed the affidavits of all the 173 candidates for whom Manipur will vote in the first phase across 38 constituencies, parties in the state have ignored the directions of the Supreme Court and the Election Commission regarding selection of candidates.

"Directions of the Supreme Court have had no effect on the political parties in selection of candidates in Phase I of the Manipur Assembly Elections as they have again followed their old practice of giving tickets to around 21% of candidates with criminal cases. All major parties contesting in Manipur phase 1 elections have given tickets to 11 % to 29% of candidates who have declared criminal cases against themselves," the reports said.

According to the ADR report, 37 candidates of the 173 analysed have criminal cases against them, while 27 have serious criminal cases against them, including two who have been charged for murder and two for crimes against women.

Three constituencies have been tagged as "Red Alert Constituency" by the ADR, as over three candidates have criminal charges against them. These include Keirao, Lamlai, and Andro.

CROREPATI CANDIDATES

According to the ADR and CEO reports, 53%, or 91, candidates in the first phase of Manipur elections are crorepatis. The average assets of candidates is Rs 2.5 crore.

24 candidates have assets worth over Rs 5 crore while only 17 have assets less than Rs 10 lakh. The BJP has the highest number of crorepatis - 27, followed by NPP, which has 21.

The NPP has the richest candidates on average - 78% of candidates have declared crores in assets. The average assets of the NPP candidates is over Rs 3.4 crore.

18 Independent candidates, many of whom have been denied tickets by the big parties, have declared assets of over Rs 3.7 crore on average.

The BJP candidates have an average wealth of around Rs 2.8 crore. JD(U) has Rs 2.6 crore, while Congress has declared an average of Rs 1.9 crore.

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