Friday, March 16, 2012

Making Sense of the Manipuri Verdict 2012 -- Part II

We continue from the previous post (Linky) on interpreting the Manipur mandate 2012.

Manipur has nine administrative districts and 60 Assembly constituencies (see Footnote 1). The Imphal Valley has approx 60% of the state's population whereas the Hill districts have approx 40% of the population. Due to delimitation exercises done as late as 2011, the Valley has been divided into 40 Assembly constituencies and the Hill districts have 19 reserved (for ST candidates -- read as Kuki/Chin/Mizo and Naga tribal affinities -- only) constituencies and 1 general constituency (in Senapati district). The main candidate parties for the Assembly elections were: i) INC, ii) Manipur People's Party (MPP), iii) Naga People's Front (NPF), iv) Manipur State Congress Party (MSCP), v) All India Trinamool Congress (AITC), vi) CPI, vii) CPM, viii) Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), ix) Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), x) BJP, xi) BSP, xii) Janata Dal (United), xiii) Janata Dal (Secular), etc. Of these, the first five are/were serious contenders to be meaningful participants in the Assembly debates with enough members to change the course of certain policy decisions, while the rear end had/has their pockets of influence in Manipur but not severe enough to dent the course of the main contenders.

First, some useful statistics from the elections and comparable data from the 9th Assembly elections of 2007. Most of the data have been sourced from:
1) Linky 1
2) Linky 2
3) Linky 3
4) Linky 4
5) Linky 5
6) Linky 6.

Voting percentage: 79.8% of the electorate (86.73% in 2007)
Overall seat wins: INC 42, AITC 7, MSCP 5, NPF 4, LJP 1, NCP 1 (In 2007, it was INC 30, MPP 5, NCP 5, CPI 4, RJD 3, NPP 3, Independent 10)
No. of women winners: 3 (Akoijam Mirabai, Okram Landhoni Devi (wife of Okram Ibobi Singh), Nemcha Kipgen)
In 2007, it was one when Okram Landhoni Devi won the Khangabok seat vacated by the resignation of CM Okram Ibobi Singh who had also won from Thoubal.
Big-time losers:
1) Radhobinod Koijam (former CM and NCP state unit President),
2) L. Jayantakumar Singh and 3) D. D. Thaisii (both Ministers in the previous Cabinet)
4) O. Joy Singh (veteran MPP leader)
5) Th. Chaoba Singh (another veteran MPP leader)

Lessons from the elections:
1) Toothless Opposition: The MPP, CPM, NCP, JD(U) and RJD had initially come under the People's Democratic Front umbrella to fight the incumbent INC regime and this combine soon became the People's Democratic Alliance of eleven non-Congress parties (with the inclusion of AITC, CPI, BJP, MSCP, NPP and NPF). While it may remain questionable (in the minds of a few) that the eventual outcome was whether a massive mandate for the Congress, it certainly was a mandate against an ineffective, toothless Opposition with nothing much in common except a visceral hatred towards INC rule. Very often have we seen such maha-parivars fail to usurp the sitting party and the Opposition has yet again made a big mistake in sensing people's moods and sentiments. The facts that the INC government was hobbled by many a scandal and handled the economic blockade (see Footnote 2) by the Nagas and the tit-for-tat from the Kukis rather poorly did not seem to have had any impact on the voters. In fact, from 30 seats in 2007, INC has increased its tally to 42 in 2012. More specifically,
For the first time in over a quarter century or more, a single party has won an absolute majority in the 60-member state assembly.
This is just a direct reflection of the quality of Opposition in the elections.

2) Congress' Performance: As for the INC, it stood in all the 60 constituencies. Of the 40 Valley constituencies, it won in 28 seats, came a strong second in 9, came a strong third in 2 and got washed out in Langthabal where its candidate Waikhom Shyama Devi was no match for other contestants. In the Hill constituencies, INC won in 14 of the 19 reserved seats and came a strong second in 5. In the Kangpokpi (Gen) seat in Senapati district, INC came third behind MSCP and AITC. Thus, INC could claim to have had an across-the-state presence amongst all the three sets of peoples -- Meiteis, Kukis and Nagas. The Meiteis of the Valley seem to have polarized strongly in favor of INC as witnessed by the strong showing of INC in the Valley. Or have they?

3) Kuki vs. Naga votes in the Hill constituencies: The NPF took to the hustings in 12 of the 19 reserved seats. Its performance was first in 4 seats (Chandel (ST), Karong (ST), Mao (ST) and Ukhrul (ST)), a second in 3 seats and a third in 5 seats. As noted above, INC came first in 14 of the 19 reserved seats and came a strong second in 5. The remaining seat was won by MSCP (which had come first in Tamenglong (ST)) ahead of the INC and NPF candidates. The Kangpokpi (general) seat was won by MSCP ahead of AITF and INC. Of the 9 Kuki dominated seats including Kangpokpi, INC has won in 8 and MSCP in 1, while in the 11 Naga dominated seats, INC has won 6, NPF in 4, and MSCP in 1.

4) More on the NPF flop-show: In the 12 seats where the INC and NPF had directly contested, the scorecard was INC 7-5-0, NPF 4-3-5. In terms of district-wise divisions, of the three seats in Tangkhul Naga dominated Ukhrul district (Chingai (ST), Phungyar (ST), Ukhrul (ST)), NPF could win only in one seat (Ukhrul (ST)) and that too by a slim margin of 70 votes over the INC candidate with the BJP candidate (Danny Shaiza who was an independent MLA in the 2007 Assembly) coming a strong third. Further, in Chingai (ST), an independent candidate (Khashim Vashum who was embroiled in a recent controversy Linky) had come second ahead of the NPF candidate.

In the three seats of the Kabui-Kacha Naga dominated Tamenglong district (Nungba (ST), Tamei (ST), Tamenglong (ST)), NPF had failed to win a single seat. In fact, in Nungba (ST) and Tamei (ST), the MSCP and AITC candidates had come second ahead of the NPF candidate, respectively. In Tamenglong, both MSCP and INC candidates had come ahead of NPF candidate. In the six seats of Senapati district, the NPF contested three and came 1-1-2 (Mao (ST)-Karong (ST)-Tadubi (ST)). However, in Mao (ST), the AITC candidate was a strong third behind NPF and INC. In the six seats of Churachandpur district, NPF contested one and came third (Heinglep (ST)) behind the INC and AITC candidates. In the two seats of Chandel district, NPF came 1-2 (Chandel (ST)-Tengnoupal (ST)) with the win in Chandel (ST) coming by a margin of 60 votes.

Thus, the NPF had provided a knockout win in only 2 of the 12 constituencies it had contested in. The numbers also indicate that the NPF seems to have had the backing of Mao-Maram-Anal-Maring-Paomei affinities, but not the Kabui-Kacha Naga-Tangkhul Naga affinities. For a party that had put its credibility at stake in terms of being the united Naga voice and the grand spearhead of the Nagalim campaign within the Manipur Assembly, such a show was a massively poor outcome. This intra-Naga dynamic should not be completely surprising. NPF which is also a part of the DAN government in Nagaland is dominated by Angami Nagas (Nagaland CM Dr. Neiphiu Rio and NPF founder Shurhozelie Liezietsu are Angamis), whereas NSCN (IM) is dominated by Tangkhul (Muivah) and Sema (Swu) Nagas and NSCN (K) based primarily out of Arunachal and Burma is dominated by Konyak (Khaplang) Nagas. Kacha Nagas have been at the forefront of the massive Kuki genocide of 1992-93 (see Footnote 3) in Tamenglong district and elsewhere and have migrated more towards Tangkhul Nagas and NSCN (IM) in this interregnum. Thus, even though the NPF was promised NSCN (IM) support in the pre-election setting, assuming that this support was forthcoming on the ground seems like a mirage.

5) Grand-Nagalim Project: The role played by Nagaland CM Dr. Neiphiu Rio in inflaming emotions in the Naga-dominated regions of Manipur when he was campaigning for NPF needs attention. In fact, Rio had stated the following at an election rally in Tamenglong district on January 19 (Linky):
Last year, Ibobi Singh and his cabinet decided that they will not allow the Naga Chief Minister to enter the State, but now that the elections have been announced, he no longer has the power to prevent me from coming here and meeting you. But if you let him win again I will not be able to come to Manipur to meet all of you.
Needless to say, that remark was in rather poor taste and the poor show of NPF was richly deserved.
Overall, the impression one gets from the NPF campaign is that the whole of Nagaland (DAN, INC as well as NSCN-IM, NSCN-K, NSCN-KK, NNC, Naga Hoho, etc.) is firmly behind the grand-Nagalim project. Only the methods adopted by the different actors change from time to time, some adopt democratic means, some use coercive means; some use legal means, some use extra-legal means, and so on. Nevertheless, despite all overall impressions of union, when it comes to tit for tat, things breakdown along tribal sub-affinities.

6) Comparison with 2007: Note that in the 2007 Assembly elections, the INC which had won a total of 30 seats took 25 from the Valley and only 5 from the reserved Hill seats (3 in Churachandpur district -- Churachandpur (ST), Hinglep (ST), Saikot (ST), one in Senapati district -- Karong (ST) and one in Tamenglong district -- Nungba (ST)). The Hill seats breakdown for 2007 was 5 in favor of INC, 3 (including Kangpokpi) for the NPP, 2 for the RJD, 1 for the NCP and 9 for independents supported by the NPF, ANSAM and the Naga combine. Here is a theory to explain the reversal in fortunes for MPP, NPP, NPF, RJD, INC, etc.

In contrast to the NPF's woes, INC has won 6 out of 6 seats in Churachandpur district, 3 of 6 in Senapati district, 2 of 3 in Ukhrul and Tamenglong districts, and 1 of 2 in Chandel district. While almost all of these wins do not appear to be massive/overwhelming and appear to be steals in a tri-cornered fight with a spoiler candidate, the endorsement of INC can only be logically explained as the Kuki side's tilt to INC (the only possible perceptible winner) as a backlash to the ANSAM enforced Naga blockade (see Footnote 2).

7) Rise of the Trinamool Congress: In contrast to what Nitin Gokhale states (Linky):
Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress, never before a force to reckon with in Manipur, has won seven seats in the recent assembly elections, overtaking established political forces like the Manipur People's Party.
the rise of AITC should be seen in the light of: i) how a strong dynamic in West Bengal will always have (and has always had!) an influence in all the Northeastern states (not just Manipur), ii) the brand of minority politics wielded by the likes of AITC and CPM -- both of which are constrained by realpolitik of a rising and enlightening Muslim votebank and who are never shy of showing off their secular credentials, iii) how the AITC had become popular amidst the also-running Opposition parties as witnessed by its success in the bye-elections of 2011 (Linky).

8) Looking at the Trinamool performance more closely: The Trinamool Congress won in the following constituencies (winners in 2007 elections are given in parentheses):
a) Thounaojam Shyamkumar -- Andro by 10432 votes (T. Shyamkumar on MPP ticket)
b) Maibam Kunjo -- Hiyanglam by 17 votes (Elangbam Dwijamani Singh of INC)
c) Konthoujam Sharat Singh -- Konthoujam by 514 votes (Late Dr. Sapam Budhichandra Singh of INC)
d) Irengbam Ibohalbi Singh -- Oinam by 956 votes (I. I. Singh on MPP ticket)
e) Khumukcham Joykishan Singh -- Thangmeiband by 984 votes (Radhabinod Koijam of NCP)
f) Thongam Biswajit Singh -- Thongju by 603 votes (Bijoy Koijam of INC)
g) Oinam Lukhoi Singh -- Wangoi by 182 votes (Salam Joy Singh of NCP)
Thus, of the seven seats Trinamool won in 2012, three were sitting MLAs -- two won the elections in 2007 on a MPP ticket and one had won the bye-elections of 2011. Thus, Trinamool Congress has gained significantly due to defections from MPP. Further, three of the winning seats are in Imphal west district, two in Imphal east and one each in Thoubal and Bishnupur, all in the Valley area. This makes a case that Trinamool had a backing only in the Meitei areas and not much in the Kuki-Naga areas. Such a coarse analysis misses the big picture.

The Trinamool finished a strong second (several thousand votes) in 16 constituencies of which 6 were reserved constituencies (Churachandpur (ST), Henglep (ST), Saikot (ST), Saikul (ST), Singhat (ST), Tipaimukh (ST)), a strong third in 11 constituencies of which 4 were reserved constituencies (Mao (ST), Saitu (ST), Tadubi (ST), Tengnoupal (ST)), and a strong fourth in 4 constituencies of which one was reserved (Ukhrul (ST)). In other words, the Trinamool has been a strong candidate in 37 of the 48 seats it contested, making it the number 2 party in the state by any metric and the biggest riser from 2007. Of these 11 reserved constituencies, 5 are in Senapati district, 5 in Churachandpur district and one in Chandel district. In Ukhrul and Tamenglong districts (both Naga dominated), the Trinamool took to the polls in only 2 of the 6 constituencies getting washed out in both. Thus, a strong case can be made that the Trinamool is becoming the no. 2 party of choice of both Meiteis and Kukis.

9) Trinamool Trend: It may appear that the rise of Trinamool Congress is perhaps a temporary aberration of people putting more hope in the Trinamool than in the Opposition combine of Manipur. The moment there is a sense of de javu and hopelessness that Trinamool Congress is just another party is the moment it shall lose its rising stars -- the ball for which is in the court of the Trinamool, of course. On the other hand, if the AITC does snatch this ball (so-to-speak), it could be the alternate pole sorely needed in the Indian Northeast to the INC given that the BJP has seemed to have fallen off from its high of 1998-2004. More so, the rise of the Indian Northeast cannot be ensured without the co-option of West Bengal and AITC's rise augurs well for this prospect (also bringing with it all the pitfalls that already constrain West Bengal's polity today). In addition, AITC could be seen more hopefully by people in the Northeast to solve regional problems than the likes of BJP given the image manufactured by AITC so far. For example, prior to the elections, AITC had given support to withdrawal of AFSPA from Manipur. Further, a good showing in a few more states could give a fillip to AITC's seeking of National Party status, which will bring in its own added momentum (Linky) and the consequence of the bold standing up to the INC in coalition politics will have its own unintended consequences.

Overall,
1) In response to the Naga blockade crisis, the Meiteis of the Valley seem to have chosen to stick with the INC -- more or less the only credible choice -- and put AITC over the rest of the established parties such as NCP, MPP, MSCP, etc.
2) In contrast to an ambivalent 2007, the Kukis seem to have sided with the INC and partly with AITC.
3) The Nagas seem to have been vertically divided along tribal sub-affinities in terms of support to NPF (Nagalim issue and territorial sovereignty of Manipur).
4) This dynamic means that INC has been able to land a whitewash despite massively poor economic upliftment of the people of Manipur, enormous increase in extortion activities and the business of terrorism, and complete stalling of bureaucracy/officialdom over the previous five years. The fact that INC has not had any major success in any of the other four state elections except for a marginal performance in Uttarakhand means that this win stands out for its complete surprise.
5) If any of the Opposition parties have to make a dent into this quickly transforming INC bastion (along with Assam where the illegal votebank has become a de facto powerbroker), they have to see past the fractiousness of the tribal divisions and present a credible solution to Manipur's economic woes. The only seeming prospect as of now appears to be AITC, but it is a hope banked on hope rather than on performance. If such an alternative is not coming soon, it is advantage INC to maintain status quo in spite of poor performance. The INC should feel like the ball is in the Opposition court for they have to manufacture a win out of nothing in 2017 (or earlier).
6) Despite all the whitewashes, the bluster of NPF and the Opposition combine shall continue as the blame for the whitewash will fall on imaginary conspiracies.

Other Minor Facts:
1) The biggest margin of victory was achieved by the incumbent CM Okram Ibobi Singh from the Thoubal constituency. Other 10K+ margin winners include Thounaojam Shyamkumar of AITC from
Andro and Ginsuanhau of INC from Singhat (ST).
2) Out of the 60 newly elected MLAs of the Manipur Assembly, no MLA has declared criminal cases against him/her. 57 of the 60 are men and 3 are women. In terms of educational qualification, 49 out of 60 are graduates with only 4 being 10th Pass and below.
3) Out of all 60 MLAs analyzed from Manipur 2012 Assembly Elections, 16 are crorepatis. In 2007 Assembly Election for the whole of Manipur only 1 MLA was crorepati.
4) The MLA with maximum assets in Manipur is T.N. Haokip of INC from Saikot (ST) constituency with assets worth Rs. 10.07 crores followed by Ksh. Biren Singh of INC from Lamlai with assets worth Rs. 5.22 crores and R.K. IMO Singh of MSCP from Sagoiband constituency with assets worth Rs. 2.72 crores. Among major parties, the average asset per candidate for INC is Rs. 1.05 crores, for AITC is Rs. 69.8 lakhs, for MSCP is Rs. 97.43 lakhs, and for NPF is Rs. 68.5 lakhs.
5) The number of re-elected MLAs from 2007 is 35. Of these 35, the average asset value in 2007 was Rs. 20.02 lakhs. The average asset value of this set in 2012 is Rs. 1.18 crore. Of these,
a) T.N. Haokip of INC's asset worth increased from Rs. 29.73 lakhs in 2007 to Rs. 10.07 crores in 2012.
b) Ksh. Biren Singh of INC's asset worth increased from Rs. 14.23 lakhs in 2007 to Rs. 5.22 crores in 2012.
c) Kh. Govindas of INC's asset worth increased from Rs. 38.25 lakhs in 2007 to Rs. 2.49 crores in 2012.
Other notable increases include:
d) K. Meghachandra of INC's assets rose from Rs. 2.90 lakhs in 2007 to Rs. 2.06 crores in 2012.
e) Akoijam Mirabai Devi of INC's assets rose from Rs. 30.5 thousand in 2007 to Rs. 14.40 lakhs in 2012.
f) K. Ranjit Singh of INC's assets rose from Rs. 3.82 lakhs in 2007 to Rs. 1.70 crores in 2012.

Footnotes:
1) The smallest number that can be had for a Legislative Assembly is 60, unless there is a Constitutional exception by an Act of the Parliament (as is the case with Sikkim, Mizoram and Goa). See Linky for details.

2) When the Centre decided to hold ADC elections in Manipur, the All Naga Students Association of Manipur (ANSAM) and the Naga Students Federation (NSF) began a blockade of NH-39 in April 2010 to protest the decision. In May 2010, the crisis took a bitter turn when the State government disallowed NSCN (IM) general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah from visiting his village Somdal in Ukhrul. During the four-month long blockade, Manipur was strapped for severely needed resources like petrol, LPG and basic food commodities. As Kuki-Naga tensions worsened, the NSCN (IM) was accused of trying to stall the democratic process in Manipur where nearly 200,000 voters would vote. A year later, in 2011, Kuki groups from Manipur started a 122-day blockade to draw attention to their demand — declare Sarda in Senapati district an autonomous district for Kukis. Both blockades crippled the State economically and losses ran to the tune of Rs. 250 crore.

In fact, there is a precedent from 2002 and 2007 to the claim that economic blockades matter zilch in Manipur.

3) Within the Hill districts, Kuki and Naga militia have been at loggerheads since the 1990s, with Kuki groups asking for the establishment of an Autonomous District Council (ADC) in Senapati, and Naga groups, backed by the NPF and NSCN (IM), demanding that large chunks of the four Hill districts be part of Greater Nagalim since these areas were inhabited by Tangkhul Nagas.

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