By Sagarneel Sinha
The polling for the Manipur assembly poll is due in two phases on February 28 and March 5. The Congress has arrived at an understanding with the four Left parties for electoral alliance on the basis of a common minimum programme. The campaign has been intensified and the Left workers are working hard for BJP’s defeat. On the other hand, the BJP has mobilized huge resources to retain its power in this 60 member assembly.
In Manipur, among the Left parties, only the CPI has a base on the ground. The other Left parties — CPI(M), RSP and Forward Bloc — only exist in names. The four Left parties have entered into an alliance with the Congress. The other constituent is the Karnataka based HD Devegowda’s JD(S). The alliance is called the Manipur Progressive Secular Alliance. The constituents have even released a Common Minimum Program to portray that the alliance is based on principles. Although what appears is, the only principle of all the constituents is to anyhow defeat BJP in the state.
The considerably weaker Congress has taken the right decision to ally with CPI. The two parties had allied in the past too. In fact, the CPI was once a junior partner in the Congress-led Secular Progressive Alliance government in the state. After sharing power from 2002 to 2012 along with Congress, CPI withdrew support from the Okram Ibobi Singh led government. The Left party was unhappy for being ignored by Congress on many issues. In the assembly elections held in the same year, CPI failed to even open its account. Again in the last assembly elections, the Left party failed to send a representative to the assembly.
That’s a story of the past. This time CPI once again has decided to ally with the grand old party, which also knows that although weakened, the Left party still has votes in some pockets. However, the alliance is a very weak one if seen from CPI’s perspective. The Left party is contesting only on two seats — Kakching and Khurai. But in the assembly constituency of Kakching, CPI will have a friendly contest with its ally Congress. It means that Congress will support CPI only in one constituency.
In utter desperation to only see the defeat of BJP, CPI has committed a big mistake in Manipur. The Left party could have extracted at least half a dozen of seats from Congress. Also, the party could have ensured that Congress wouldn’t field any candidate against the CPI candidates. After all, in an alliance, sacrifices should be made from all sides.
Already this has resulted in discontent among the CPI workers. According to a news report by the New Indian Express, around 48 CPI workers from the Wangjing-Tentha constituency have resigned from the party. The workers were unhappy that the CPI didn’t field a candidate from this constituency. The same report says that the party aspirant Haobam Robindro, party’s state executive member, is unhappy and even criticised the party for allying with the Congress. Notably, Haobam contesting as CPI candidate garnered 18.8% votes and came third. The seat was won by Congress.
True that CPI has been unable to win a single seat in the last two assembly elections. In fact, the party has even failed to find candidates in the last two elections, particularly in the last election when it had to contest only 6 seats. But the Left party isn’t uncommon in the north-eastern state. The Lok Sabha polls of 2014 and 2019 showed that CPI has an influential base in the state. The party got 14% votes in 2014 while it garnered 8.3% votes in 2019. Party’s M. Nara is a well-known leader in the state. In fact, the party was leading in 3 assembly seats in the 2019 elections. True that some of these votes were from NPP, which supported CPI’s M. Nara in the Inner Manipur Lok Sabha constituency. The Inner Manipur constituency has seats from the plains and CPI got 17% votes in the 2019 elections from this constituency.
In the last assembly elections, the six assembly seats the party contested were — Kakching, Khurai, Lamlai, Wangjing-Tentha, Langthabal and Yaiskul. It got 9.2%, 2.7%, 6.7%, 18.8%, 7.4% and 0.7% votes respectively. In the Lamlai assembly seat, CPI was leading in the 2019 elections. The other two seats where CPI was leading were Uripok and Keisamthong. There were 9 seats where CPI was the second-largest party in the 2019 polls — and Yaiskul assembly seat was one of those.
The CPI says that the decision to contest only two seats is taken by the party. Whatever it is, the truth is that the Left party has completely surrendered to Congress. It has committed a big blunder by not asking the grand old party to cede at-least half a dozen seats. This time CPI actually had a chance to regain its lost base in Manipur. But it has failed to do so. (IPA Service)