Saturday, March 11, 2017

In Cruel World of Elections, 16 Years of Struggle and Only 90 Votes for Irom Sharmila

More people in the constituency pressed on NOTA than voted for the iconic campaigner against the Armed Forces (Special powers) Act Irom Sharmila. Credit: PTI
“At least 90 people had some morality and some hope,” sociologist Nandini Sundar tweeted.--Irom Sharmila. Credit: PTI

New Delhi: The Manipur assembly elections were special this year because human rights activist Irom Sharmila was contesting after 16 years of struggle and hunger strike against the Armed Forces (Special Protection) Act. When she ended her hunger strike in 2016, she announced that she wanted to repeal the law by contesting and winning in the state elections.

But that’s far from what has happened; the people of Manipur preferred the  established pattern of politics in the state in which big parties with large organisational heft and financial resources count for more than individuals, no matter how iconic or well-intentioned. 

 Sharmila added to the symbolism of her candidature by avoiding an easier seat and instead contesting from the Thoubal assembly constituency against chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh. In the end, she got only 90 votes. In fact, there were more people who pressed the button for NOTA on this seat – 143 – than those who voted for her.

Ibobi won the seat after defeating BJP candidate L. Basant Singh by 10,400 votes. He received 18,649 and the BJP candidate 8,179.

The All India Trinamool Congress candidate on the seat, Leishangthem Suresh Singh, received 144 votes. Independent candidate Akoijam Manglemjao Singh got 66, putting Sharmila at the the fourth position on the seat.

Sharmila faced several hurdles, including the dissatisfaction of some of her supporters, when she decided to end her hunger strike.

“At least 90 people had some morality and some hope,” sociologist Nandini Sundar tweeted.

Listen: Why Irom Sharmila won just 90 votes – Podcast in Hindi with sangeeta Barooah Pisharoty and Amanat Khullar, who covered the Manipur elections for The Wire.- The Wire.

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