The BJP is eyeing the 10 seats in the Thoubal district that has been three-time Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh's bastion for the last 15 years. Thoubal is also the most keenly watched seat in the assembly election where activist-turned-politician Irom Sharmila is taking on Mr Ibobi Singh.
The BJP is doing every bit to reach out to the minority voters, the Manipuri Muslims or Meitei Pangals. They constitute about 10 per cent of the state's 19 lakh voters. Of the 22 seats that go to polls in the second phase, Muslim votes are going to influence at least six constituencies in the Thoubal district.
"The Congress calls us communal, but we have an alliance with People's Democratic Party in Jammu and Kashmir. In the Christian-dominated Nagaland, we have an alliance with the ruling party. We never do politics of communities," BJP national general secretary Ram Madhav said while addressing a gathering in Lilong in Thoubal yesterday.
The BJP's sole Muslim candidate in Manipur is from Lilong. Nobody would have envisaged a BJP rally in Thoubal especially in the minority belt of Lilong in the early days. Clearly times have changed.
Chief Minister Ibobi Singh, on the other hand, asserts that the Congress has always promoted communal harmony in the northeastern state.
"We have ensured sharing of power with the minorities at the grass-root level," Ibobi Singh had told Muslim voters during several rallies.
Congress had won nine of the 10 seats in Thoubal in the last election. Manipur's biggest political survivor, Mr Ibobi Singh, has lost only once in Thoubal. His supporters claim that Thoubal is as developed as Imphal, Manipur's capital.
"In his three terms, Mr Ibobi Singh has done a lot of development work for Thoubal and Manipur. We are happy with his efforts," said Binoba Devi, Thoubal resident.