Sinlung /
03 March 2012

Congress Set To Retain Manipur

New Delhi: Manipur looks set to return the Congress to power yet again, according to the post-election survey by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) in association with The Week and CNN-IBN. The ruling party may win 24-32 seats in the 60-member Assembly. The anti-Congress alliance, the People's Democratic Front, is expected to fare poorly with 5-11 seats. The surprise in the state could be the debutant All India Trinamool Congress (AITC) garnering around 7-13 seats. Independents and smaller parties like CPI, the Manipur State Congress Party (MSCP) and Naga People's Front are expected to win between 10 to 18 seats.
In Manipur a divided opposition seems to be the incumbent Congress party's best hope for retaining power for a third consecutive term. This is the main finding of the Post Election survey conducted by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) among 1200 respondents across 20 randomly selected Assembly constituencies of Manipur in the second and third week of February 2012. In a State where no party has ever managed to cross the majority mark in the 60-member Assembly, the Congress led by two terms Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh is projected to emerge on top once again with 30 percent of the votes.
While Congress party is down 4 percent compared to last time, its main opponent - the People's Demoractic Front (PDF), the grand anti-Congress alliance of five parties led by Manipur People's Party (MPP) - is expected to secure only 13 percent of the votes. Although the PDF did not exist in 2007, but if we were to add up the vote share secured by all the PDF constituents (MPP, Rashtriya Janata Dal, Nationalist Congress Party, Janata Dal United and Communist Party of India Marxist) five years ago, then the PDF is down by a huge 18 percent this time. Mamata Banerjee's All India Trinamool Congress (AITC), a new entrant on the election scene of Manipur is set to make an impressive debut with a projected vote share of 14 percent. Other parties, which include the Communist Party of India (CPI), Naga People's Front (NPF), Manipur State Congress Party (MSCP), Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and Independents, are likely to corner 43 percent of the votes, a gain of 8 percent since last time.
Elections 2012: Congress set to retain Manipur
If we analyse the regional pattern of voting, then the nature of contest varies from region to region. In the rural parts of the Valley which has the highest number of seats (33), the Congress leads a badly divided opposition. However, in the urban areas of the Valley it is AITC which is likely to be ahead. In the Hills area dominated by the Nagas, the Congress is ahead but is facing a tough fight from both the NPF and the MSCP. In the Hills area dominated by the Kuki tribes, the main fight appears to be between the PDF constituents and the Congress, with the former in the lead.
While the PDF constituents seem to doing well in the Hills, what is interesting is that nearly half the voters who were interviewed during the survey had not heard of the PDF alliance. Awareness levels about PDF were particularly low in the Hills. While very few who had heard about the alliance thought that the PDF would stay intact after elections, the opinion in Hills dominated by Kuki tribes on PDF's survival was more optimistic.
An analysis of how different communities and tribes of Manipur are voting reveals that Meiteis, the dominant community of Manipur and the community to which Chief Minister Ibobi Singh belongs, mostly voted for the Congress (28 percent) followed by the Trinamool Congress (18 percent). The main fight for the Naga votes seems to be between the Congress, NPF and MSCP with the Congress cornering the largest share of 36 percent. Among Kukis however the Congress is trailing the PDF by 17 percentage points.
Chief Minister Ibobi Singh who is aiming for a hattrick this time is the most preferred choice for chief minister among most Manipuris and leads other CM hopefuls by a wide margin. 25 percent of the voters said they want him to be Manipur's next chief minister. His popularity is the highest in the Hills dominated by Kukis (43 percent) and lowest in the Hills dominated by Nagas (7 percent).
When asked to compare the performances of Ibobi Singh-led Congress government's first and second terms, most respondents (33 percent) said the second term had been better. The assessment of the second term was best in the rural areas of the Valley (41 percent) and worst in Hills dominated by Nagas (14 percent).
Despite, his second term being rated better than his first term, Ibobi Singh's government is rated very poorly by voters on almost all issues of governance. For instance, 80 percent of the respondents said the supply of electricity had deteriorated and 67 percent said the supply of drinking water had worsened. Only on the issue of development of Manipur was Ibobi Singh's government rated positively.
However what is interesting is that despite low satisfaction levels with the Congress government, more people (33 percent) said they wanted the government to continue in office than go (27 percent). The only region where the mood was opposite was the Naga dominated Hills where only 20 percent said that the Congress government should be given another chance and 44 percent were against bringing the government back.
The CSDS survey also reveals that in Manipur people seem to have voted more for individual candidates and not so much for the parties to which they belong. When asked what mattered more to them while voting, party or candidate, nearly two-thirds of the people said they went by the candidate and only one-fifth said party.
The Congress seems to be getting the advantage of being the ruling party at the Centre. 75 percent of the respondents agreed with the statement that 'It is good to have the same party ruling in Manipur as the one ruling at the Centre in Delhi'. In fact this is much higher compared to those who agreed with the statement that 'Regional parties are better than national parties for solving Manipur's problems'.
On the crucial issue of Manipur's territorial integrity, a huge 70 percent of all respondents said that Manipur should remain undivided and stay the way it is, and only 9 percent were of the opinion that Naga dominated areas should be merged with Nagaland. However if we break it down in terms of regions, then the opinion in the Naga dominated Hills on the issue was very different with 92 percent of respondents there either opting for merger or for giving greater autonomy for Naga areas within Manipur.
While there is no regional unanimity on the question of Manipur's territorial integrity, there seems to be a broader consensus on the issue of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which has been used almost uninterruptedly in the state since 1980. Nearly two-thirds of voters are of the opinion that it should not continue and this sentiment was found to be consistent across regions. Moreover, over three-fourths are of the opinion that Iron Sharmila's 11-year long fast against AFSPA is justified.
Vote share (%) (2012 Estimates)

Seat projection
2012 (Projected)
(Others include CPI, MSCP, NPF, NPP)
Vote-share - Congress leads yet again, Trinamool makes an impressive debut
2012 (Estimate)
PDF includes MPP, NCP, RJD, JDU and CPM; PDF did not contest as an alliance in 2007, so the vote share secured by all its constituents last time has been added up in the 2007 column. AITC did not contest in 2007.
Congress gaining from a divided opposition in two key regions, Trinamool makes an impressive debut.
The regional picture
Valley Rural (33)
Congress leads badly divided opposition
Valley Urban (7)
Trinamool leads Congress
Hills Naga (11)
Congress ahead, main contest with NPF and MSCP
Hills Kuki (9)
PDF leads Congress; Trinamool also doing well
Figure in bracket is number of seats in the classified region

Nearly half the voters have not heard of PDF, the grand alliance against the Congress 
Those who…
Hills Naga
Hills Kuki
Have heard of PDF
Think PDF will stay intact after the elections  (among those who have heard)
All figures are in percent, rest had not heard or felt that the PDF constituents will go their separate ways or had no opinion

Nearly two-thirds go by the Candidate and not the Party  
People who voted for…
Rest had no opinion
Who did the Meiteis vote for: Mostly Congress, followed by Trinamool
Meiteis voted for…
Rest voted for others

Who did the Nagas vote for: Mostly Congress, followed by NPF and MSCP
Nagas voted for…
Rest voted for others


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