Imphal, Feb 3: The Congress on Friday declared 60 candidates for the Manipur assembly elections, fielding Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh from his traditional seat of Thoubal.
The list, released by party general secretary Madhusudan Mistry, came almost a month before the polls in the state. Manipur would witness a two-phased election on March 4 and March 8 for its 60-member assembly.
The ruling Congress is the first and only party in Manipur which has announced the names of all 60 candidates for the elections. The Bharatiya Janata Party had announced the names of 31 candidates few days ago and is yet to come out with the remaining 29 candidates.
Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh told IANS that the policy is to give tickets to the sitting MLAs. However, tickets were given to those who have a bright chance to win. Two-time winner, Okram Landhoni, Chief Minister Singh's wife, is not contesting the elections this time. A few weeks back she had announced her retirement to make room for her son Surjakumar. He was given the party ticket from the Khangabok constituency from where his mother won for two consecutive terms.
Okram Henry, a nephew of the chief minister, also got the party ticket for the Wangkhei constituency. The sitting Congress MLA Yumkham Erabot had joined the BJP. Last time, Henry contested unsuccessfully. Prominent Congress minister N. Biren recently resigned to join the BJP. In his place, another politician, N. Rajen was given the Congress ticket in Heingang constituency.
Thounaojam Shyamkumar, a TMC MLA, was one of the MLAs who had joined the Congress sometime back. Despite the police claim that he has a nexus with militants, the party ticket was given to him. Shyamkumar, however, denied the police charge. The names of 60 candidates which were recommended by the state election committee was approved on Thursday by Congress President Sonia Gandhi.
Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh and Manipur Congress president T.N. Haokip had rushed to Delhi to have the list approved. Congress leaders said that they are not expecting mass resignations as was the case with the BJP. The disappointed aspirants had resigned and joined some other parties.
A party leader said: "Of 60 constituencies, there were single applications for the Congress tickets in 41 seats. In case of the remaining seats, there is no dissatisfaction over the selection of the party candidates." In the 2012 elections, the ruling Congress faced a ban from six insurgent groups. There was bloodshed to drive home the message that the armed groups mean business.
However, the Congress scripted political history by winning 42 seats, something never done by any other party. Besides, it is the only party which has been in power for three consecutive terms with Ibobi as the undisputed leader. No chief minister could even complete a five-year term before.