Will Stay Away and Introspect: Irom Sharmila on Quitting Politics

Irom SharmilaI’m fed up of politics after seeing my result. It seems like politics is certainly not my cup of tea. I need a break from all this. I‘m going to stay in a women’s ashram in Kerala and do some introspection.

This is how civil rights activist and PRJA party chief Irom Sharmila responded to the result of electoral politics in Manipur.

Sharmila lost to incumbent Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Sigh, securing only 90 votes while Ibobi managed a whopping 18,649. What is even more significant is that the NOTA (None of the Above) votes counted 53 more votes than Sharmila’s aggregate.

Clearly, Sharmila’s iconic charm did not translate into votes in her quest for political power. She blamed the people for it, who she says are driven by selfish motives.

When I campaigned in Thoubal constituency, the innocent masses were so cheerful, showing sympathy on seeing me. They even invited me to share a meal with them, but when it comes to casting their votes in selecting their representatives to bring real democracy, their mindsets are influenced by selfish motives. Seeing such contradictions, the inconsistency in their thought and action, I can no more expect any votes from them in a future contest.

Maybe her failure in electoral politics does indeed lie in this inconsistency that she pointed out. It is a fact that people still love and respect her for the sacrifice she has made and she expected the people to accept her as a politician based solely on that. But clearly this was not to be.

Also Read: How Irom Sharmila Changed the Narrative of AFSPA in Manipur

Her credential as an activist and a crusader against AFSPA was not enough. Many people did not understand what she meant when she promised democracy and justice for Manipur.

Also Read: Congress Races Ahead, Secures 28 Seats to BJP’s 21 in Manipur

Her resolve not to comb her hair until the AFSPA is repealed did not help her political career either. Her appearance with her uncombed hair not only failed to instil people’s confidence, but also created an image of a person disconnected with ground realities.

Even her party’s volunteers, mostly activists playing the role of political workers, did not help her cause. In the run-up to the Manipur elections, access to Sharmila was made extremely difficult, particularly for the media.

Maybe, PRJA functionaries and volunteers were only trying to protect Sharmila, but it certainly translated as treating the media with a degree of arrogance.

Although she seems firm in her resolve to quit politics, Sharmila wants the PRJA to survive and become a strong political party.

I would like to quit politics, but I want PRJA to survive and be the hope of youths of the state by being a strong regional party build on inclusive participation of both the hills and the Valley. I want it to be a party built on ideology and on our social set up and not on money and muscle power.

It is a pity that the Iron Lady of Manipur had to go through such humiliation, but she says she does not mind it and it was something she had to go through. One only hopes that she eventually rediscovers herself and takes on a significant role that would continue to hit the conscience of the decision-makers to make positive social changes.

Also Read: Irom Sharmila Says BJP Offered Rs 36 Crore, Ram Madhav Denies It

(Sunzu Bachaspatimayum is an Imphal based media person and documentary filmmaker.)