With the state reeling under the impact of an economic blockade since last November and petrol selling at Rs 200-250 per litre, the candidates of different political parties were forced to go on a door-to-door campaign on foot. The state is under an indefinite economic blockade launched by the United Naga Council (UNC) since November 1, last year in protest against the creation of seven new districts bifurcating the existing ones. The supply of essential commodities, including fuel, to Manipur was severely hit due to the blockade on NH2 (via Dimapur) and NH 37 (via Jiribam) — the two lifelines of the state. As most of the petrol pumps were facing severe shortage of fuels, they were being sold in the black market at an exorbitant price of Rs 200-250 per litre.
Political parties were compelled to use minimum number of vehicles for the purpose of campaigning.
“Our candidates in most of the places were campaigning on foot. Earlier, we used to do it on cars or open jeeps. But this time there is a huge scarcity of petrol/diesel, and the prices are exorbitant,” a state BJP leader said.
This was echoed by both ruling Congress and other opposition parties like the People’s Resurgence and Justice Alliance (PRJA) party of rights activist Irom Sharmila and Trinamool Congress.
The Congress, however, said that the economic blockade was the a result of a covert pact between the BJP and the UNC.
“There is a fuel shortage, but the BJP being in power at the Centre can’t shake off its responsibility. They are trying to reap dividends out of this blockade,” a Congress leader said.
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“It’s neither possible for us as a party nor as candidates to afford fuel. In my constituency, which is quite congested, I am avoiding cars and therefore doing the campaign on foot.
“But there are certain constituencies which have very rough terrain rendering it very difficult to campaign without a jeep. There too we have to go on foot as we don’t have so much money,” PRJA convenor Erendro Leichombam told PTI.
The Trinamool Congress, which became the third largest party in the Manipur state Assembly after 2012 elections by winning seven seats in the 60-member Assembly, is planning to contest from 30 seats this time.
“We are having a tough time in organising the campaign in rough terrains by foot. We have written to Indian Oil and also to the state and the central government to see that the fuel crisis is solved. But the BJP and the Congress are busy fighting against each other rather than solving the crisis,” TMC leader Samrat Tapadar, who is looking after elections in Manipur, told PTI.
Out of the seven TMC MLAs who had won in the 2012 election, two had switched over to the BJP and five had switched over to the Congress.
In view of the crisis, the Oil Ministry along with the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Defence decided to airlift fuel to the northeastern state.
On January 23, the Indian Oil Corporation had airlifted 96,000 litres of diesel to Manipur to mitigate the fuel crisis triggered by the indefinite economic blockade.