Considering the circumstances, even the most die-hard supporter of Irom Sharmila perhaps would not have expected her to win from Thoubal constituency in the recently concluded Assembly election in Manipur. Contesting an election for the first time and that too in the bastion of the State’s Chief Minister who is looking to return for a fourth term calls for guts. So, the real surprise doesn’t lie in the fact that she lost but the manner in which she and her party were decimated.
Sharmila got just 90 votes which were not expected by anybody. People in her constituency rather pressed NOTA (143) than vote for her. Even a lesser known candidate from Trinamool Congress, Leishangthem Suresh Singh received more votes (144) than her.
The celebrated human rights activist who had underwent a 16 year fast to repeal the draconian Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA), had faced a lot of flak when she decided to quit her fasting and join active politics last year. The people of Manipur who had shown so much support for her all these years turned their back on her when she decided to join politics.
Politics inexperience undid campaign of Irom Sharmila
Irom Sharmila found out the hard way that electoral politics is a different ballgame altogether. Just good intention is not sufficient to get the votes. Her first mistake was to fight Okram Ibobi Singh in his own constituency. While the move was gutsy, it was not sensible. Considering the fact that even BJP didn’t field a strong candidate from Thoubal, Sharmila’s decision was nothing but political suicide.
While she carried out a door-to-door campaign on cycle, it was not enough to take on the money and muscle power of the bigger parties. PRJA had contested in just three seats and lost all three. Najima Phundreimayum, the first Muslim woman to contest in Manipur elections, contested from Wabagai. Her performance was even more dismal than Sharmila as she could secure just 33 votes.
It is a shame that Sharmila decided to quit politics after the defeat. Whatever, mistakes she might have committed, she was at least much more well intentioned than many of the politicians who have won in the polls. So, maybe in the long run, her loss might be actually be a loss for the people of Manipur.
Words- Nabarun Guha