With 90 Votes After 16-Year Struggle, Irom Sharmila Bows Out Of Politics

Irom Sharmila had contested against Chief Minister Ibobi Singh from Thoubal.

Thoubal: Hours after Thoubal handed her just 90 votes, Manipur's Iron Lady Irom Sharmila - who conducted a 16-year hunger strike demanding the withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act or AFSPA --- said she would quit active politics and travel south to "calm" her mind. Barely 24 hours ago, the feisty activist had said she would "try again" in the national elections of 2019 if she lost her contest against Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh in Thoubal.

Ms Sharmila, 44, had stopped her fast last August, saying she wished to chart a new course for the agitation as the Chief Minister of the state. She also said that she wanted to get married.  It had enraged a section of the people, who had unleashed a barrage of criticism. But undeterred, she had started a new political party - the PRJA (Peoples' Resurgence and Justice Alliance) - and held strategy sessions with political leaders including Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal.

She had even waded into a controversy, claiming that the BJP had offered her a ticket and a hefty fund for her campaign. She said she had refused.

Cash-strapped despite crowd-funding, the members of the fledgling party had campaigned on cycles. At the end of it, Ms Sharmila polled just 90 votes from Thoubal. Her opponent, three-time Chief Minister Ibobi Singh, won comfortably with a margin of 10,740 votes. Two of her party members also lost their security deposits of Rs 10,000 each - which happens only when one fails to poll 10 per cent of the valid votes.  

Later, the activist sounded despondent. "I am fed up with this political system. I have decided to quit active politics. I will move to south India as I need to calm my mind," she said.  She however, made it clear that it was not the end of her agitation against AFSPA.  "I will continue my fight against AFSPA until and unless it is repealed. But I will fight as a social activist," she said.

Twitter, though, was outraged on her behalf, with many pointing out how she had deserved better.
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