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Manipur election results 2017: Will Ibobi Singh return as Manipur CM?

LiveMint logoLiveMint 11-03-2017 Shaswati Das

New Delhi: Even though Congress’s Okram Ibobi Singh, three-time Manipur chief minister, has won the Thoubal constituency once again by a comfortable margin, it remains to be seen if he will become the state CM for the fourth time.

The Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) were neck-and-neck in trends at 5.16pm. While the Congress won in 23 seats, the BJP won 19. Both were leading in 2 seats each.

Ibobi was fighting a massive anti-incumbency wave, especially with activist-turned-politician Irom Sharmila emerging as the other frontrunner in these elections. Sharmila polled 90 votes in the elections.

Then there were other challenges. Manipur was thrown into a state of flux in the last few months with the economic blockade called by the United Naga Council (UNC) that has affected the prices of essential commodities. Add to it, the charges of increased extra-judicial killings during his term, an insurgent movement that has plagued the region since the 1950s and a steadily rising unemployment rate.

In the run-up to the elections, in December 2016, Ibobi Singh did the unimaginable. He announced seven new districts for Manipur, bifurcating the previous nine districts. This was Singh’s big gamble just four months prior to the polls, in what was perceived as a desperate attempt to hold on to the chief minister’s post.

Track Assembly Election Results 2017 here

Ibobi’s foray into politics began in 1984, when he won his first assembly election as an independent candidate. Thereafter, his ascent was quick. A year later, he joined the Congress and after winning the 1990 polls from Khangbok, he went on to become the housing and urban development minister. Although Ibobi lost the 1995 polls, he rose through the party ranks to become its state president in 1999.

Ibobi became indispensable when he steered the party in the state through tumult after the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah) demanded the creation of Greater Nagaland. When the Congress finally formed the coalition government in 2002, Ibobi became the man the party turned to.

Also Read | Manipur election results 2017 live

With the 2007 elections, Ibobi returned to power even though the Congress had just 30 seats and the coalition with the Communist Party of India (CPI) continued. With the 2012 polls, discontent and anti-incumbency began to weigh heavily against the Congress in the state and, in the process, against Ibobi. However, this time round the party fared even better, winning 42 seats in the elections and Ibobi was once again elected chief minister.

So what will be Manipur’s choice—letting Ibobi, the man who has gained a firm footing in the region, prevail or making way for the BJP to usher in a new political era.

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