State Elections 2022: BJP May Retain Its Domination in Manipur and Goa

State Elections 2022: BJP May Retain Its Domination in Manipur and Goa  - Sakshi Post

By Praveen Rai

The announcement of assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh (UP), Uttarakhand, Punjab, Goa, and Manipur by the Election Commission of India (ECI) in midst of the third wave of a highly transmissible Covid-19 variant in India has received a mixed response from the stakeholders in the electoral process. While parties and politicians in a rare show of unity welcomed the ECI decision to hold the elections on time, others criticized it on grounds of putting public health at risk, comparing it with ‘Nero Fiddling, while Rome Burned’. The ECI announced several voter-friendly novelties like postal ballots for senior citizens 80 years and above, for those with disabilities and suffering Covid-19 infections, a strict embargo on physical election rallies, roadshows, processions, and padayatras. It increased the time for polling by an hour, made it mandatory for parties to distribute facemasks and sanitizers during campaign trails, and allowed only five persons for door-to-door visits. The guideline issued looks impressive on paper and in digital spaces, but its poor implementation during the previous and current rounds of elections raises serious questions on its probity in public governance. The election management body could have deferred the elections during the peak of pandemic waves, but its hurried decision suggests that it has buckled under political pressure and by default become a ‘Self-Caged Parrot’.

If the responsibilities of ECI in conducting elections in recent times have been indiscreet, the role of anglicized Delhi media in providing electoral footage and column centimeter in this crucial cycle of state elections reflects mainstream and regional propensities. The reporting is heavily loaded in favour of UP and Punjab, with marginal coverage for Uttarakhand, Goa, and Manipur. The reasons for UP and Punjab getting prime time and front page spaces is primarily due to its overhyped political significance and ideological and cognitive biases. The corporate media houses have shunned their role of non-partisan reporting and become spokespersons and campaigners for political parties thereby vitiating the ecosystem of free and fair elections. The pre-election assessment of Goa and Manipur will focus on the analysis of previous election verdicts, issues that will influence voting behaviour, electoral prospects of political parties, and broad political trends that may unfold after the elections.


The state situated in the north-eastern region of the country will witness a multi-corner contest for 60 assembly constituencies between the BJP, the Congress alliance, Nationalist Peoples Party (NPP), Naga Peoples Front (NPF), with challenges from minor parties and non-affiliated and independents in some seats. The BJP is fighting the election alone as its allies in the Centre, the NPF, NPP have decided to contest separately, while the Congress has formed an alliance with CPI, CPM, RSP, JD (S), and Forward Block.

The hill state of Manipur has a complex political history and environment spanning different lines of party affiliations in geographical regions. The caste community profile of the 60 constituencies reveals that 40 are in the Imphal valley dominated by the Meiteis, while the tribals comprising of Nagas and the Kukis are preeminent in the 20 seats in the hills. The Congress won 28 seats in the 2017 assembly election and emerged as the largest party but it floundered the opportunity of forming the government. The Saffron party was quick in capitalizing from the political faux paus of the Congress and with 21 seats it came to power by forging post-poll partnership and defections (especially from the Congress) and brought political curtains on the 15-year rule of Congress Chief MinisterOkram Ibobi. The Biren Singh-led BJP formed a coalition government comprising of NPP, NPF, Trinamool Congress (TMC), Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), and an independent MLA.

The BJP is confident of winning a majority (target: 40 seats) based on its accomplishments: stable governance, rapid development, trust-building, and implementation of the ILP (Inner Line Permit) system. ILP has been a long-standing demand of the people that allows outsiders including people from other states to take prior permission from the government to visit Manipur. The inauguration of 21 infrastructure projects by PM Narendra Modi of more than 5000 crore rupees and flagging off the party campaign provided the icing on the cake. However, the BJP faces strong challenges due to the following issues: one it failed to build a political consensus on the Meitei (almost 60 percent of the population) community’s demand for ST status. Two, it could not pass the Manipur (Hill Areas) Autonomous District Councils Bill 2021created a divide among the people of the valley and the hills. Three, it is facing a problem of abundance due to the inclusion of a large number of turncoats from Congress and other parties into the party fold. The allotment of seats to eleven former Congress MLAs and two ex-legislators from TMC and LJP has created a lot of disgruntlement among the grassroot leaders and workers. It can lead to localized electoral backlash and may damage the winning chances of its official candidates in some seats. Fourth, the upsurge of regional sentiments and conversion of Naga sub-nationalism into votes. The NPP, which contested on nine seats in 2017 and won four,is fielding candidates in 40 seats, while the NPF that previously won four out of the eleven Naga dominated seats is pushing hard to win more seats. Finally, the Churachendpur ambush by insurgents and the extension of the ‘disturbed area’ provision of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, amidst cry for its repeal following the killing of 14 civilians by security forces in Nagaland may dent its winning ratios.

The formation of a new party, Kuki People's Alliance, may lead to fragmentation of Congress votes in nine assembly seats in Kuki-dominated areas that has been its traditional bastion, which may benefit the BJP. The saffron party seems to be in a pole position, but predicting election outcome is complicated and risky, as state politics is defined by opportunism, expediency, self-seeking behaviour, and the chances of securing ministerial berths and public offices. 


The assembly elections for 40 assembly constituencies is a multi-party electoral competition between the BJP, the Congress, and its ally Goa Forward Party (GFP), Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) and Trinamool Congress (TMC) alliance and the AAP. The saffron party won 13 seats in 2017 state elections despite garnering a higher votes share (32 percent popular votes) than the Congress, which won 17 seats with 28 percent popular votes due to the advantages of ‘first-past-the-post (FPTP) electoral system’ and higher concentration of votes in the winning seats. The Congress, like in Manipur, lost the political momentum due to its lackadaisical approach and paved the way for the saffron party to form the government. The Congress despite being the single largest party not only lost power but also in due course of time was reduced to just 3 MLAs after BJP-engineered defections from its ranks and some MLA’s switched over to the TMC.

The Pramod Sawant led BJP government facing heat for not fulfilling its 2017 election promise of reviving the iron ore-mining sector, made a fresh set of promises for resuming it through a new state-owned corporation, mineral exploration, and a policy to an auction of unmarketable low-grade iron piled up in heaps over several decades. The issues, apart from restarting iron ore mining, which will be stiffly contested by parties, include protection of the environment, linear projects cutting through the Mollem forest, Covid management, diversion of Mhadei river water to Karnataka, recruitment in government jobs, and inflationary price rise.

The saffron party has lost the support of regional parties, trust of the church and the Christian populace (25percent of the electorate), and the charismatic presence of late Manohar Parrikar, who had the rare ability to cut across the political divide and forge alliances with smaller parties and independents. It is facing strong anti-incumbency sentiments due to allegations of recruitment scams and remonstrations by churches and social activists due to its national project of Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC). The entry of AAP and TMC in this election can be detrimental for the BJP as they may dent its fluid support base. The AAP has a political advantage of a track record of good governance with emphasis on health and education and the lure of doles and freebies-the so-called ‘Kejriwal guarantees’, while the TMC may benefit from experienced campaigners poached from the Congress and more importantly, the requisite resources to damage its winning prospects. 

However, the BJP can find solace in the nature of Goan politics that has been more personality-driven rather than party affiliations with slender margins of electoral victories. Since the assembly constituency sizes are small, a few thousand votes can make a difference between a victory and a defeat. The multi-party competitions can lead to the division of secular votes that may benefit the BJP and in some seats and paper-thin margins can favour the independents. The defection of 24 out of the 40 MLAs from the political parties they won in the 2017 elections has created a trust deficit for politicians and elections among the Goan citizens. If they choose to express their anger by abstention from voting, it may result in a hung assembly and provide an opening for elected MLAs to shift their party loyalties for monetary considerations.

To conclude, ‘Turncoat Politics’ and ‘Political Horse-Trading’ have been the key features of electoral politics in Goa and Manipur due to fractured mandates and political fluidity. The opinion polls and ground reports suggest that the BJP has an edge in Manipur and lagging behind in Goa, but it can dramatically change on the election day due to high electoral volatility and party switching. However, the BJP may continue to dominate politics in Goa and Manipur due to the absence of party loyalties of elected representatives and its political legacy of backdoor post-poll negotiations and government formations in these states.

About the Author

Praveen Rai is a Political Analyst at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi.

Also Read: Punjab Assembly Elections 2022: Punjab Lok Congress of Captain Amarinder Singh

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