Once a force to reckon with in Manipur politics, the CPI and CPI(M) are fighting the Assembly election to regain their lost ground in the state. Manipur has a long history of Left movement, under the leadership of legendary Left leader like Hijam Irabot Singh commonly known as “jana neta Hijam” but this time the Left parties are fighting hard to make their presence felt in the state. The on-going insurgency and ethnic driven conflict seems to have taken a heavy toll on the communist parties of Manipur, which believe in the ideology of class struggle. The CPI, CPI(M) along with other secular and like minded parties have formed a front called Left and Democratic Front (LDF). It also has an electoral adjustment with National People’s Party. Altogether they are fighting in 50 seats in the 60-member Manipur Assembly.
CPI, which is dominant among the Left forces, conceded that they are fighting to regain their lost ground and rebuild the once glorious Left movement in the state. “Once we were quite a big force in the state. We had considerable number of seats and had played decisive role in state government formation. But those are things of past. We have to rebuild from the scratch. We are fighting to regain our lost ground in the state with the help of other secular and democratic forces,” M Nara Singh, CPI state secretary and LDF convener, told PTI.
Nara’s view was echoed by a senior state CPI(M) leader Santo, who feels that the Left had lost its ground as it could not build a movement in the state where politics is driven by ethnicity. He also blamed the role of money and muscle power as one of the biggest problems for the Left. “We follow the principle of class struggle. And it was based on this that we had build our movement. But few wrong decisions and conflict driven by ethnic identity had taken a toll on us,” Santo told PTI.
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Such was once the clout of the CPI, that with five seats in kitty it played a major role in the ascension of Congress to power in 2002 led by Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh. The first Congress government in 2002 was known as a Congress-CPI coalition called Secular Progressive Front (SPF).
In 2007 again SPF came to power but the CPI’s tally had come down to four.
But with the state witnessing various ethnicity-driven agitations in THE last one decade, it exposed the failure of Left’s ideological and organisation influence on the people of the state.
To add salt to its wounds, the state was rocked by few incidents of alleged fake encounters after 2007 and with people’s anger brewing against the Congress government, the CPI being a partner of the government, too had to pay a price, which proved to be politically fatal.
“After the incidents of alleged fake encounter rocked the state at the end of 2007. I had told my party and my other MLAs lets walk out of the government. But the party MLAs vetoed against it. In protest I resigned as the convener of SPF. But the damage was already done, people thought we too were hand in gloves with the Congress as we were partners,” Nara Singh said.
The Congress dumped the CPI in the 2012 elections and moved on. But Left suffered a humiliating blow as it failed to win even one seat in the 2012 Assembly elections.
Since then the Left has been losing its political ground in the state and its prominent leaders to Congress and other parties.
The condition of Left parties in the state is so pathetic that it had a tough time in finding candidates. In 2012 the CPI had fielded 24 candidates and had drawn blank but it 2017, it managed to field only six candidates.
The CPI, however feels that as there is a consolidation of Left and secular forces across the country, it will have a reflection in the polls in form of LDF.
“For us both Congress and BJP are equally dangerous — one is corrupt and another one is communal and in order to fight both the evils, people will vote for LDF in the state. The LDF will be in a decisive position after the polls,” CPI deputy state secretary Satin Kumar said.
Kumar is, however, apprehensive about the role of money and muscle power in the upcoming elections.
“Election results here depends a lot on money and muscle power. Our fight is to change this trend of Manipur and take it towards the path of peace and development,” Kumar said.
Assembly election in Manipur will be held in two phases in March four and eight.