Media and Social Media are abuzz with news that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is stealing the elections in Manipur and Goa. Even though BJP got a higher vote share in both states, the Congress ended up winning more seats. Leaders from the party claim that they should be the ones forming the government since they were the single largest party. Congress leaders and journalists have constantly tweeted about this theft for the past two days, which has led to a lot of people actually believing this narrative.
I am not familiar with the ground realities of Goa, but this narrative is a fabricated one for the state of Manipur. After the results for the state were declared on 11th March 2017, it was clear that BJP was the only party that was in a position to form a government in Manipur. The party not only got more votes across the state, but the mandate also reflects the people’s desire to oust the Congress from power.
Out of a total of 60 assembly seats in Manipur, the BJP won 21 seats. The Naga People’s Front (NPF), which won 4 seats in the election, is already in coalition with BJP in the state of Nagaland since 2003. Ideologically too, the party could never have supported Congress since the move of district creation taken by the Congress CM O. Ibobi Singh right before the elections is seen as an anti-Naga move made to polarize the state’s population, and is the reason for the economic blockade that has plagued the state for 4 months now.
The National People’s Party (NPP) has also won 4 seats in the elections. It too has lent support to the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) headed by BJP since 2013 and is a part of the North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), an alliance of parties from the North East headed by BJP. NPP lent its support to BJP soon after the election results were announced and clearly would not have supported a Congress government in the state.
The Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) also won a seat in the elections and it too is a part of the NDA. Ram Vilas Paswan, the current Union Minister of Food and Public Distribution heads the party and he announced that the party would support BJP in forming the government in Manipur within a few hours of the election results being announced.
The number of candidates who had won from BJP or it’s partners from the NDA stood at 30, while 31 seats were required to form the government in Manipur. The Congress party won 28 seats, but could only get support from a maximum of 2 more MLAs as only the lone winning candidate from All India Trinamool Congress (AITMC) and an independent candidate could lend support to the party. This would take the Congress total to 30 and result in a hung assembly in the state, an outcome that would result in President’s Rule and an eventual reelection.
There was no scenario in Manipur under which Congress was forming the government, which is what probably led to extensive support for BJP from winning candidates from even within the Congress party. Not only did both the independent and the TMC candidate lend their support, but a Congress candidate too lent his support even though he knew he would lose his own seat due to the anti-defection law, taking the BJP’s total strength to 33 seats.
Since then there have been several media reports stating that anywhere from 12 to 18 other candidates who have won the election on a Congress ticket want to desert the party and lend their support to BJP, clearly indicating what the future of Congress in Manipur would be.
This was the first election for which the BJP contested on all 60 seats in Manipur and the party rose from a vote share of 2.1% to 36.3%. This clearly indicates that people wanted the Congress regime removed from power and it hadn’t happened in the past purely due to a lack of options. As soon as the BJP presented itself as an alternative, people moved away from a party known for corruption to a party committed to development.
The entire narrative of an election being stolen in Manipur seems to be a distraction created by Congress to hide its dismal performance in elections across the country.
Disclaimer: The author worked for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the 2017 Manipur Legislative Assembly Elections.
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