Imphal | Jagran Politics Desk: Following the assembly elections in Assam this year, the focus in the northeast has shifted to Manipur where polls are slated to take place along with four other states - Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Goa - in early 2022. All political parties, including the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and the opposition Congress, have pulled up their socks and are leaving no stones unturned to woo the voters.

Amid the continuous allegations, counter-allegations and blame games, it seems that the repeal of the contentious Armed Forces (Special Power) Act, 1958 or AFSPA is likely to be a top issue for the Manipur assembly elections 2022, especially after the recent incident in neighbouring Nagaland where 14 civilians lost their lives.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) at the Centre is in a fix over AFSPA as most of the Chief Ministers of northeast states, apart from Assam's Himanta Biswa Sarma, have demanded that the controversial act should be withdrawn.

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The Congress, which ruled Manipur for 15 straight years before being thrown out of power by the BJP in 2017, has already made its main issue and promised to repeal AFSPA if voted back to power. Earlier in December, its state chief Keisham Meghachandra had urged Chief Minister N Biren Singh to press Prime Minister Narendra Modi to repeal AFSPA in Manipur.

He also said that the Congress government had earlier removed AFSPA from seven assembly constituencies in Manipur.

"Manipur cabinet must adopt a resolution for the immediate removal of the AFSPA from the entire state," Meghachandra was quoted as saying by news agency IANS. "If Congress comes back to power in the 2022 elections, the first cabinet meeting would decide on the immediate and complete removal of AFSPA from the entire state of Manipur."

Notably, BJP allies in Manipur - National People's Party (NPP) and Naga People's Front (NPF) - have also reiterated their demand to repeal the "draconian" law as it did not "help in any way" to tame the insurgency in the northeastern region.

The BJP top brass, however, continues to be mum on AFSPA in Manipur but with the elections approaching, the saffron party might take a decision over the controversial act. Though it should be noted that the ruling party is preparing to contest the elections on the issue of development.

Elections for the 60-member legislative assembly in Manipur will likely be held in February or March next year. The BJP-led NDA is in power in Manipur since 2017 after ousting Congress after 15 years. Though the Congress had emerged as the single-largest party with 28 seats, the BJP, which had bagged 21 seats, formed an alliance with NPP, NPF and the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) to form the government.

Posted By: Aalok Sensharma