The second phase of the assembly elections wore a much more festive look in Manipur. A day after the record voter turnout of 88.63% for the first phase, the mood at Heirok constituency in Thoubal district was euphoric. The two-kilometre diversion road from the highway that leads to Moreh on Indo-Myanmar road wore the convivial look of democracy. Huge saffron flags with the prominent thambal (lotus) welcomed one and all to Devi Mandop field where union home minister and BJP leader Amit Shah was to address a public rally at one past noon on Tuesday. It was a vivid drift from the prevalent new normal of door-to-door canvassing with very limited gathering.
This was the final campaign for the national leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party in the state with the second and final phase of polls on March 5. With the traditional Manipuri turban on, Amit Shah in his address to the gathering of several thousand said that Manipur until five years ago was a state where blockades, drugs and militancy were prevalent. People of the state had to struggle for basic rights. The BJP in its five-year governance has bid adieu to bandh, controlled militancy and ushered in new hope of development, he said.
“More than 600 times bandh in Congress rule and not a single one in BJP’s governance. Talks with all militant organisations of Manipur shall be initiated in the next five years. Not a single youth of Manipur shall go astray. 9,500 youths have shunned violence in NE and Himanta Biswa Sarma has shown it in Assam where Karbi, Dimasa and Bodo militancy have negotiated for peace,” said the union home minister.
Manipur chief minister N Biren Singh and his Assam counterpart Himanta Biswa Sarma, who is also the convenor for NEDA (Northeast Democratic Alliance), were with Shah as he assured the people of the state that Manipur will be made drug-free.
Taking a jibe at the Congress and former chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh, the home minister said that the party in its term left Manipur with Rs 21,000 crore which during BJP time has gone up to Rs 35,000 crore. He assured the people of the state that the longstanding demand of AIIMS will be accomplished immediately after the BJP is re-elected to power.
“10 new Ima markets (traditional women’s markets) in honour of the women power of the state in all the districts of the state, 121 kilometre-long Jiribam-Tupul-Imphal putting Manipur on the rail map of India prominently. Several national highways are to be constructed at an expenditure of 16 thousand 23 crore rupees to end any further blockades. Manipur Skill Development University within six months of BJP coming to power,” he said.
“There was only one start-up in Manipur before 2017, that is the Gandhi family’s start-up, but today there are 5,477… Give the ‘double-engine’ government five more years and we will establish peaceful dialogues with the insurgents and make them a part of the mainstream.”
Appreciating the torchbearers of sports of the state like Mary Kom, Mirabai Chanu, Bombayla Devi and Laishram Sarita Devi, Shah promised that Manipur will be made the sports hub of the country. Rashtriya Khel Bidaylay with an investment of Rs 825 crore will commence in a couple of years, he promised.
The visit of the union Mmnister ended with a sumptuous Manipuri meal served in banana leaf plates and bowls at the residence of Thokchom Radheshyam.
Former IPS officer Thokchom Radheshyam and BJP candidate for Heirok constituency was elected in 2017 and initially held the education portfolio in the N Biren government. He is up against former education minister during the Congress government Moirangthem Okendro Singh. In the 2017 assembly election, Thokchom Radheshyam won the constituency for the BJP, beating Congress’s Okendro by a margin of 1,647 votes. That year the total number of voters in Heirok constituency was 30,297.
Manipur will go to the second phase of polls in the remaining 22 assembly constituencies on March 5 and counting of votes will take place on March 10. The first phase of polls in 38 assembly constituencies was held on Monday and witnessed a record voter turnout with 88.63% of the total 12,09,439 voters. The turnout for men was 87.29% and that of women was 89.96%.