On November 2, 2000, in Malom town in Manipur, 10 civilians were allegedly shot and killed by the Assam Rifles while waiting at a bus stop. The incident later came to be known to activists as the “Malom Massacre.”
To protest against massacre and repeal of AFSPA, an act that gives unlimited power to armed forces to control rebels in disturbed areas, Irom Sharmila went on hunger strike, she was later arrested and force fed using tube. The hunger strike which started in year 2000 ended on 9th August 2016.
During this 16 years of hunger strike, Irom Sharmila became quite popular in her home state Manipur, she was seen as symbol of resistance against AFSPA. Many celebrities met her, she became symbol for resistance against AFSPA even in other states.
But in 2016 she announced that she giving up her strike. She wanted to get married and fight elections.
Suddenly her popularity started declining people felt that she had betrayed the cause. AFSPA still exists.
Irom Sharmila went ahead and decided to contest elections. She formed a party called PRJA and with two other candidates decided to fight elections. Two others candidates were, Harvard-educated Erendro Leichombam and Najma Phundreimayum, a Muslim women rights activist.
Irom Sharmila decided to fight against Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh from Thoubal. It was a bold decision, as chief minister is a veteran politician.
Irom Sharmila gathered funds from well-wishers through crowd funding, she also got some funds from Aam Adami Party. She and Najma did campaign on bicycle.
But when results were declared yesterday, performance of PRJA was disappointing. Irom Sharmila got 90 votes as against 18649 polled by Okram Ibobi Singh, even “None of above” got more votes! Clearly Irom Sharmila has overestimated her popularity.
“I don’t feel ashamed of my defeat but am fed up of elections and won’t contest again in future… But I want my party, Peoples Resurgence and Justice Alliance (PRJA) to survive.”
|Manipur – Thoubal|
|OKRAM IBOBI SINGH||Indian National Congress||18649|
|LEITANTHEM BASANTA SINGH||Bharatiya Janata Party||8179|
|LEISHANGTHEM SURESH SINGH||All India Trinamool Congress||144|
|IROM SHARMILA CHANU||Peoples Resurgence and Justice Alliance||90|
|DR. AKOIJAM MANGLEMJAO SINGH||Independent||66|
|None of the Above||None of the Above||143|
“We really like her cause (for repealing AFSPA), but we’re compelled to support someone whom we think is capable of fighting back and winning the elections”
– Y Roben , a resident of Thoubal.
Others too did not fare any better. Erendro ended up getting 500 votes and Najma got 33 votes.
Why did they lose? People may like the cause, but when it comes to voting they want candidates who can win elections. They didn’t have any faith in administrative capability of PRJA candidates.
“It was not the result I expected. During electioneering, all the masses whom I met were sympathetic to my cause. But they ended up voting for others, due to their selfish motives.”
If Irom Sharmila wants to get into politics, she should have a solid agenda and execution plan. Blaming people and calling them selfish won’t help.