NEW DELHI: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress are locked in a close battle in Manipur as they are projected to poll 36% and 33% votes respectively in the upcoming Assembly elections, as per the ABP-CVOTER Battle for the States survey.
The 60-member Manipur Assembly will go to the polls in two phases on February 27 and March 3, while counting of votes will be taken up on March 10.
The sample size for the survey was 2,100 across 60 Assembly seats in the State.
The BJP has led over the Congress consistently, albeit with a wafer-thin margin. The trend observed so far seems to be crystallising and the BJP's edge has withered over the Congress from the previous round of tracker.
The BJP is currently expected to win 25 seats, while the Congress is close on its heels with 24 seats. The Naga ethnic party Nagaland People's Front (NPF) is expected to mop up 4 seats and 'others' could win the seven remaining seats.
The crystallisation of electoral trends has a lot to do with polarisation along ethnic lines witnessed in the State. The renewed Naga assertion and reaction to it from Manipuri tribes is the defining feature of the coming elections.
In case the BJP loses its slender edge or if there is a sudden surge from the Congress, yet another hung Assembly may be witnessed with the role of kingmaker resting with the NPF and others. The probability of that happening is more than what it was a month ago.
Manipur polls are important for the BJP to show its continued dominance in Northeast India, especially with the worsening internal security situation casting a shadow over its track record. A pacified and progressive North-East has been an important pillar of BJP's national messaging, predicated on security and national assertions.