ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Making Sense of the Manipur Assembly Election Results

It is argued that it would be naïve to explain the Bharatiya Janata Party’s success as a wholehearted endorsement of its Hindutva agenda as there are substantial local reservations on this. Unlike Uttar Pradesh or other parts of North India where it aggressively pushed its Hindutva agenda, the BJP knows the limitation of this agenda and has instead used a combination of strategies like the promise of development and peaceful settlement of armed conflicts. These electoral strategies intersect with and are driven by a set of factors that, in turn, determine the BJP’s success: first, the increasing electoral insignificance of the Congress, and second, the continuing salience of complex and cross-cutting social cleavages.

 

The author gratefully acknowledges the help of Sonia Basumatary, research assistant of the ICSSR IMPRESS project. He thanks the ICSSR for its generous funding.
The 12th Manipur assembly res­ults mark the consolidation of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the diminished electoral significance of the Congress. In terms of the sheer number of seats won, the BJP’s performance is spectacular as it secured 32 seats in the 60-member assembly, the first time for the BJP and only the second time any party has managed to secure a majority on its own in the electoral history of Mani­pur.1 This is remarkable given that in the nine assembly elections it participated in since 1984, the BJP managed to secure seat(s) only on five occasions. While its performance in the first three was insignificant as it could barely manage to ­secure one, six, four seats in the 1995, 2000, 2002 elections with a vote share of 3.35%, 11.28%, 9.55%, respectively, its performance substantially improved in 2017 when it secured 21 seats with a vote share of 36.28% (Tables 1a and 1b, p 20). The BJP consolidated this feat in the 2022 election by securing 32 seats with a 37.83% vote share in ­Manipur.

What explains the BJP’s success? In this article, I argue that it would be naïve to explain the BJP’s success as a wholehearted endorsement of its Hindutva agenda as there are substantial local reservations on this. Unlike Uttar Pradesh or other parts of North India where it agg­ressively pushed its Hindutva agenda, the BJP knows the limitation of this agenda in Manipur in particular and in the North East in general. This impels it to carefully use a combination of strategies like the promise of development and peaceful settlement of armed conflicts—promises which gain particular traction under favourable conditions cre­ated by the small state syndrome. This syndrome signifies a condition of perpetual dependence of small states like Manipur on the centre’s financial largesse, which in turn makes them amenable to state-level party system change whenever there is a change in party configuration at the national level (Hausing 2022).

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Updated On : 7th Jul, 2022
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