After firing by the security forces killed 14 civilians and injured 30 others in neighbouring Nagaland on December 4, the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Power) Act, 1958 is likely to be a top issue in the upcoming Assembly elections in Manipur scheduled early next year. After the ruling BJP’s two vital allies — Naga People’s Front (NPF) and National People’s Party (NPP) — the main opposition Congress in Manipur on Saturday demanded the withdrawal of AFSPA from the northeastern state.
The NPP and the NPF had recently reiterated their demand to repeal of the “draconian” law, as it did not “help in any way” to tame the insurgency in the northeastern region. Manipur Pradesh Congress Committee’s working president Keisham Meghachandra on Saturday urged Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren Singh to press Prime Minister Narendra Modi to repeal AFSPA in the ongoing Winter Session of the Parliament.
“Manipur cabinet must adopt a resolution for the immediate removal of the AFSPA from the entire state,” he told the media. Meghachandra said the Congress government had earlier removed AFSPA from seven Assembly constituencies in Manipur.
“If Congress comes back to power in the 2022 elections, the first cabinet meeting would decide on the immediate and complete removal of AFSPA from the entire state of Manipur,” the Congress leader said. With not much time left for the Assembly polls, political parties are busy campaigning in Manipur, including the BJP, Congress, NPP and others. BJP President J.P. Nadda has visited the northeastern state thrice since October, addressing many election rallies, while Home Minister Amit Shah visited the state once and virtually addressed a function with an eye on the elections.
Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, NPP President and Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma and many other politicians have also visited the poll-bound state to kick start the campaign for the vital elections. Elections to the 60-seat Manipur Assembly are likely to be held in February-March next year, along with Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Goa. The Election Commission has also initiated various exercises to hold the elections in the state.
The ruling BJP has been running the government since 2017 with the support of the NPP and the Naga People’s Front (NPF), which has organisational base both in Manipur and Nagaland. After 15 years, the Congress was ousted by the BJP-led alliance in 2017, despite emerging as the single largest party with 28 seats. But the saffron party, which had bagged 21 seats, stitched together a coalition government with the support of four NPP MLAs, four NPF members, the lone Trinamool Congress MLA and an Independent member.