“Thanks for 90 votes”- Four words of elegy

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I saw these four words of elegy on a Facebook page which was posted by Erom Sharmila Chanu. I astonished for a moment and start thinking about the courage, she would have assembled to type so. A lady who spends her whole life for the people. At the end of the day, people back-stabbed her and gave a rejection message by not accepting the clean people in Indian politics.

An empowered woman, who has been seeking rights for 16 years for the people of Manipur but the people for whom she was seeking not only defeated but rejected her clearly from the one end. She got only 90 votes which are much lesser than the votes which have been given for the NOTA option. I am glad to know that there are 90 people in Manipur who have some sort of positivism.

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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 AFSPA (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. She gave her earlier method since it was not audible to the respective governments in power.

This event shows that people still want to prefer criminal politics and the money loaded politics. Sharmila symbolized her candidature like Arvind Kejriwal against Sheela Dixit, by avoiding an easier seat and contesting from the Thoubal assembly constituency against chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh. Fighting for a budding player against the big candidate is not a piece of cake. It was toughest job. Arvind Kejriwal won but unfortunately, Iron Sharmila, lost the election. At the end of the political process, she got only 90 votes. In fact, there were more people who pressed the button for NOTA on this seat (143), than her.

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Sharmila faced several hurdles, including the dissatisfaction of some of her supporters, when she decided to end her hunger strike. When Manipur’s Iron Lady Irom Sharmila was campaigning for the assembly elections, she was showered with support and respect. However, that support failed to translate into votes. Some people were of the opinion that Iron should have carried her struggle in the convention way instead of fighting election. Evergreen reason behind such opinion is that politics is a dirty game and thus she should have maintained her distance from it.

Another argument which is being put forward that Irom is a human rights activist, but her personality is different from the conventional politician. Her opponent Okram Ibobi Singh is a powerful politician who has ruled Manipur for three consecutive terms. After ending her 16 years long hunger strike considered the longest in the world when she decided to contest the assembly elections, her aim was to create a political will to lift AFSPA from the state.

I am not much concerned that she was defeated in the election. I am concerned with the complete rejection by the people for whom she has been struggling for many years. People may counter and put allegation for not accepting the democratic mandate of people. I do believe in the democratic processes and respect the respective mandates of the people. Even defeated person of the local level election of municipality and panchayat gets more votes than what she got in assembly election.

It is also true that, in history, many popular leaders got defeated in elections but didn’t get rejected like that. Even Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar had lost their election from Bombay.  Ram Manohar Lohiya, whose thought processes have been using to form government in UP and Bihar, have faced debacles from Chandauli in UP. Apart from these leaders Acharya Narendra Dev, Morarji Desai, Din Dyal Upadhyay, Artal Bihari Vajpayee and Indira Gandhi have been defeated in political arena but they were not rejected. 

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Irrespective of the result, Sharmila deserves to be appreciated for her consistent struggle and her decision to form a political party on the plank of  AFSPA. Sharmila knows that she doesn’t has the support of those people who once supported her in her struggle. Even though new people joined her in her political fight, they don’t have the same pull.

Gender may be also one of the factors for her defeat. Among the 268 candidates in these elections, there were only ten women candidates. National parties like the BJP and Congress fielded only two women candidates each, a clear signal of an absence of women in the political space. In a state where you see a unique phenomenon like Ima market, one that is operated solely by women, the strong female presence has not translated into politics. Politics in Manipur is often viewed as the man’s business.

What kind of conclusion can be drawn with such behavioral approach. Lack of awareness among the people gives such sorts of catastrophic blow. This is the basic reason why people would have opted the materialistic leaders instead of struggled and empowered women in the election. If someone does not have resources to fly in air for election campaign and uses cycle as a medium for campaign does not render that she won’t be politician.

People’s mindset toward politician must be changed. Due to such mindset, many empowered lady such as Medha Patekar followed by Soni Suri, Kiran Bedi and Irom Sharmila have been faced debacle in political arena which is very unfortunate. These ladies could have role model for the upcoming generation but unfortunately gave adverse reflection.

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