Geographically, the state of Manipur is divided into two distinct parts — the hills and the valley. The Nagas reside in the hills, the Meiteis in the valley. Between the hills and the valley, there are total 16 districts, seven of which were recently created by the Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh’s government (for political gains). The nine older districts are Bishnupur, Thoubal, Imphal East, Imphal West, Chandel, Churachandpur, Senapati, Tamenglong and Ukhrul. The new districts are: Kangpokpi, Tengnoupal, Pherzawl, Noney, Kamjong, Jiribam and Kakching which are carved out of the existing districts.
Manipur has two parliamentary constituencies; Inner Manipur and Outer Manipur. The outer Manipur constituency is reserved for Scheduled tribe candidate. The Congress has consistently won the reserved constituency but the BJP has won the inner Manipur constituency from 1995 to 1999.
The Inner Manipur parliamentary constituency has 32 legislative assembly seats. The Outer Manipur has 28 legislative assembly seats.
Some of the legislative Assembly constituencies in Outer Manipur are Heirok, Kakching, Khangabo, Jiribam, Thanlon, Tengnoupal, Tamenglong, and Singhat. Some of the constituencies in Inner Manipur are Khundrakpam, Andro, Wangkhei, Lamlai, Sagolband, Lamsang, Wangoi, Nambol, Mayang Imphal, Kumbi, and Thoubal.
The hill districts of Senapati and Tamenglong which have a greater population of the Naga community share their boundary with Nagaland. Tamenglong also shares its boundaries with Assam. Churachandpur is the only district which has proximity to Mizoram whereas Ukhrul and Chandel are the gateway to Myanmar.
Manipur has a population of around 2.3 million, majority of which are Meiteis living in the valley. The rest of the population is divided into Nagas, Kukis, Komrem and Meitei Pangal (Muslims).
Major political parties are trying to maintain a balancing act wooing the Nagas and the Meiteis
The last state assembly elections were held in 2012. The Indian National Congress won 42 out of 60 seats; the All India Trinamool Congress won 7 and the MPP won 4. Okram Ibobi Singh of the INC became the chief minister for his third term.
Some exit polls are predicting that he will become the chief minister of the state for a fourth term this time around.
Here are some of the most important constituencies in the state:
Thoubal: This constituency is the most coveted seat in the state. Chief Minister Okram Ibobi and social activist Irom Sharmila Chanu who founded the Peoples’ Resurgence and Justice Alliance (PRJA) are competing on this seat. This seat has historically remained a Meitei seat, which is why Ibobi, who is a Meitei himself, retained the seat for so long.
Irom Sharmila is a new-comer in politics. She has promised to defeat Okram Ibobi from his home seat and prove victorious in removing Afspa through legislation. Will she remain successful is to be seen.
Khangabok: Khangabok will also be a star attraction as the son of Okram Ibobi Singh, Surjakumar Okram, is contesting from this seat.
Surjakumar’s mother Okram Landhoni, who has been the MLA from Khangabok for two consecutive terms, announced her retirement from electoral politics, to make way for her son.
Surjakumar, who did his schooling in Manipur and some other states, went to London where he graduated in Economics in 2008. He worked there for a while before returning home to help his parents in their election campaign for the 2012 polls.
Khangabok was the constituency of Okram Ibobi Singh when he first became the chief minister in 2002. Will Ibobi’s family retain this seat this time around, remains to be seen.